While the body count of prominent critics of Leader-for-Life Vladimir Putin rose again last week, the re-nationalization of Russia’s space industry continued to gather steam with a financial move that shows the benefits of being a friend of the Russian president.
The move involved FundServisBank, which was placed in administration (bankruptcy) under the Deposit Insurance Agency. The move was portrayed as an urgent response to a banking crisis caused by western sanctions over Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the fall in value of the ruble.
Or was it?
“From a purely economic point of view the bank has no problems … you start to wonder who is behind this,” spokesman Grigory Belkin told The Moscow Times.
Yes, who indeed might be behind it? And why?
The answer to the first question is Roscosmos, which is one of FundServisBank’s major creditors. In a posting on its website, the space agency said it had sent an urgent request to the Bank of Russia to take rapid action to continue operations of FundServisBank.
“It is necessary to correct the situation,” Roscosmos head Igor Komarov said in the statement. “We are grateful to the Bank of Russia for the action taken – depositors of banks and companies in this field need not worry.”
FundServisBank has affiliates that service the Baikonur and Plesetsk cosmodromes. The Moscow Times reports the bank employs Elena Tereshkova, the daughter of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. (Incidentally, the bank’s board of directors includes Anna Chapman, a Russian sleeper agent who was unmasked living in New York several years ago.)
Now, the interesting part is which bank Roscosmos recommended should be involved in running FundServisBank while it is under the Deposit Insurance Agency.
“Novikombank main shareholder – GC Rostec — includes more than 600 enterprises of the Russian Federation,” Roscosmos said. “Some of them are associated with the implementation of government programs, and they collaborate with the Russian Federal Space Agency on a number of activities.”
GC Rostec controls about two-thirds of Russia’s defense industry, which is being consolidated in much the same way the space industry ks being consolidated under Roscosmos. And Rostec is run by Sergei Chemezov, a close associate of Mr. Putin.
And who else does Chemezov have close ties with? None other than the current head of Roscosmos, Igor Komarov. The two men worked closely together while Komarov was on Rostec’s board. Komarov previously headed up AvtoVaz, Russia’s biggest car manufacturer, before taking over Roscosmos.
And there’s more. “Novikombank’s president, Ilya Gubin, worked at AvtoVaz between 2005 and 2008 and the head of the bank’s board of directors, Vladimir Artyakov, is one of Chemezov’s deputies at Rostec,” reports The Moscow Times.
So, here we have the circle squared. Putin appoints Komarov to take over Roscosmos, FundServisBank is put into administration, and Komarov’s brings in Chemezov and his bank to take over.
“Novikombank is taking the place of FundServisBank,” Belkin told The Moscow Times. “It’s like there is an experienced doctor who appears and says you are ill, fatally ill. You say ‘I am alive,’ but he says ‘no, no, no!'”
Now, is Belkin right? Is FundServisBank in good shape? Or is it actually bankrupt?
The answer is unclear. In Putin’s Russia, the truth is becoming increasingly opaque. It is clear, however, that control of Russia’s military-industrial complex is being increasingly consolidated into the hands of a small group of Putin loyalists.