by Douglas Messier
Do you remember all those stories about corruption and theft at Roscomos’ new Vostochny spaceport? How about the one about the construction manager who was arrested driving around in diamond-encrusted Mercedes? Or how one in every five rubles allocated for the Russia’s military-industrial complex is lost to waste, fraud and abuse?
Well, after years of not entirely successful attempts to clean up these embarrassing problems, the government of Vladimir Putin has hit upon a new strategy: suppress all news of them. The Moscow Times reports the Federal Security Service, a successor organization to the KGB, has published a 60-point list of information that “foreign states, organizations and citizens can use against Russia’s security.”
According to the list, covering military crimes, troop morale, or the size, weapons, deployments, training and structure of the Russian armed forces and other security bodies are all grounds for a news outlet to be labeled a “foreign agent.”
News outlets also risk being tagged “foreign agent” for covering military tenders and problems that “hinder the development” of the notoriously corruption-prone state space agency Roscosmos….
The FSB published the “foreign agent” information list in the same week that Russia nearly doubled its list of “foreign agent” media and journalists. Critics have slammed the recent designations, which pose existential threats to the news organizations’ business models, as part of a widening crackdown on independent voices.
“Foreign agents” are required by law to submit regular financial reports and include boilerplate text stating their designation on everything they publish, including social media posts. Media outlets say the label alienates them from advertisers, sources and partners.
I guess we can count on getting even less information about what Roscosmos is doing. And that’s not very much to begin with.
Russia’s efforts to clean up corruption have always been puzzling given reliable reports that Putin and a small circle of bureaucrats and oligarchs have been skimming money from the federal treasury for decades. Putin is rumored by some to be the richest man in the world. Questions have also been raised about the source of Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin’s wealth.
Some have compared the Russian government to the Mafia, an organization built on theft and illegal activities that doesn’t tolerate anyone lower down in the hierarchy stealing from it.
The situation is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. Last year, Putin won approval for a constitutional change that would allow him to extend his at the top of Russia until 2036 when he will be 83 years old. He became Russian president in 1999 and has ruled Russia ever since, expect for four years when he served as prime minister due to a since-repealed constitutional requirement against serving another term as president at the time.
The only thing that will prevent Putin from staying in power is his death, a revolution that overthrows him, or if Russian voters decide to elect an opponent to a six-year term in 2024 or 2030. Putin would have to lose the stranglehold he has over the country and its electoral process for him to be defeated.