Longtime Putin Adviser and Russian climate envoy Anatoly Chubais has quit on his government and country. He is the first highest-ranking official to resign since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. The 66-year-old has also reportedly left Russia, citing his opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s war.
The long-time aid was very well-known in Russia as he was responsible for Russia’s privatization movements in the 1990s and served under Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin starting in 1991.
According to Russian news site TASS, Chubais left the post of special representative of the President of Russia and immediately left the country citing a source from Chubais’ entourage. He was appointed to the post in 2020 to achieve the goals of sustainable development after he had resigned from the Russian technology firm, Rusnano which he led since 2008.
After he left his job, Chubais was photographed by Newspaper Kommersant in Istanbul withdrawing money from an ATM. Russian Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov also confirmed the reports that he had left his post, but declined to say whether he has stayed in the country or had left.
Kommersant claims Anatoly Chubais is in Istanbul, as seen here getting cash out an ATM pic.twitter.com/EXEgV4P0XQ
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 23, 2022
“Whether or not he’s left the country — that’s a personal matter,” said Peskov in a report from Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
Forbes had initially reported on Chubais’ departure from Russia, and called Chubais by phone to ask whether the rumors were true; he then answered the call, and appeared to drop the call when he realized it was Forbes inquiring about his departure. His brother, Igor, was also asked about Chubais’ departure from Russia, to which he just said “I can’t say, I don’t know.”
According to a report by Bloomberg, which was one of the news organizations that broke the story, Chubais had announced his resignation through a letter he sent to his colleagues last Tuesday.
His disapproval of Putin’s political actions had been well-documented in the past as he wrote in his book “Death of Empire.” In the book, he said that former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, one of his fellow reformers and longest friends from his youth, had warned Putin about the “temptations of imperial nostalgia for the Soviet Union.” Gaidar and Chubais had allegedly observed this tendency of Putin to look at Russia’s past with the intentions of bringing it back its glory days in terms of territory and influence.
Chubais himself had hinted on his disapproval of the war when he posted a photo of Boris Nemtsov in the earlier days of the invasion, who had been a leading Russian opposition figure in the past before he was shot dead in 2015. Furthermore, he opposed Putin’s ascension to power as Prime Minister of Russia in 1999.
Chubais adds his voice to a growing discontent among Russians regarding the war in Ukraine, it is no secret that a portion of Russia’s population and his elite circles were opposed to the war. It was reported by various news outlets that Russian oligarchs had begun to speak out against the war in a soft and cautious manner in an attempt to save their wealth and probably their own lives.
Oligarchs include Russian tycoons like metals magnate Oleg Deripaska, Alfa-Bank founder Mikhail Fridman, banker Oleg Tinkov, and quite notably Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich. Abramovich who offered to broker peace and was allegedly contacted by the Ukrainian government to support their bid for a resolution to the war.
The Architect of Privatization In Russia
Chubais, who was born to a Russian father and a Lithuanian Jewish mother, was a well-known part of the intelligentsia in Russia as a young-adult who led a group of market-oriented economists in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the 1980s. He became so prominent in these circles that he was introduced to future Prime Minister of Russia Yegor Gaidar in 1982, who he impressed with his seminars.
Throughout the 80s, he would meet different Russians who would later become fixtures in the Kremlin government which included future Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin, and the future President of Saint Petersburg bank Vladimir Kogan to name a few.
In 1991, Chubais would be appointed to Boris Yeltsin’s cabinet and was tasked with managing the portfolio of the Committee for the Management of State Property (Rosimushchestvo) as he had advocated for the rapid privatization of Russia’s state owned assets to raise more revenue.
His model was later adopted by the Russian government, leading Russian oligarchs to become significantly richer in a matter of a few weeks and launching millions of Russians into poverty. From then on, he was appointed as the deputy prime minister for economic and financial policy from 1994 to 1996 and would hold a number of positions representing Russia in international fiscal institutions. His political power was further consolidated when he became the Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1996 to 1997.
He would still become a fixture of Putin’s government as he led the overhaul of Russia’ power sector, and leading the aforementioned Rusnano, before accepting the post of Russia’s climate envoy.
However, despite reports that he opposed Putin’s war in Ukraine, a spokesperson for the recently jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said that Chubais left to save himself and his money, dismissing the notion that Chubais had genuine opposition to the war in Ukraine.
Chubais’ resignation is the first time a high-ranking official had quit on Putin following former Senior Economic Adviser to Dmitry Medvedev, Arkady Dvorkovich resigning from his post of being the head of the Skolkovo technology fund after he had condemned the Ukrainian invasion. This comes after Putin had promised to rid Russia “scum and traitors” who were trying to break the unity of Russia and secretly serving the US and the West.
There are those who say that Chubais was out of influence and power in Putin’s inner circle, but two things should be noted here. One, Chubais retained his title of Special Representative of the President suggesting he was still in Putin’s inner circle and his leaving the country implies that his dissent carried strong enough influence within Russia to make him the target of arrest, imprisonment, or assassination.
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