Fair-weather Russian generals and spooks
air dirty linen in public in Kremlin clan wars

By Yulia Latynina
The Moscow Times
A division of The New York Times

The Kremlin has designed its power vertical in such a way that any public complaint against the government is considered a sign of disloyalty. Nonetheless, government authorities are complaining a lot these days. Most important, it is the members of the siloviki (secret police) and the military who are complaining the loudest. This is striking because, according to their own code of honor, it is better to take a bullet in the head than to air dirty laundry in public.

In the ongoing war between rival siloviki clans, Federal Drug Control Service chief Viktor Cherkesov was the first to go public with his grievances. After the arrest of his deputy, General Alexander Bulbov, Cherkesov published an article in Kommersant stating that it was unacceptable for members of law enforcement agencies to betray their own people.

In reading Cherkesov's article, it seems that he turned to Kommersant in total despair after he fell out of favor with the Kremlin.

Next, generals began complaining about Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. It would not have been surprising if their differences were over the country's nuclear policy. But the generals were complaining that Serdyukov had replaced their people with his own appointees. The generals failed to explain, however, why we should sympathize with the military personnel who lost their jobs.

When the military performed shamefully in Chechnya, when the Kursk submarine sank, and when soldiers brutally hazed Private Andrei Sychyov, the generals sailed blithely along, absolutely indifferent to the public outrage against them. The generals did not utter a single word of explanation to the public. It would seem that they were both deaf and mute during these troubled times, but the moment their own positions were in jeopardy, they suddenly found their voices again and began shouting, "Help! Our ranks are being decimated!"

But inspector Dmitry Dovgy, deputy to Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin, has outdone them all. Dovgy was suspended last week pending an internal investigation over allegations that he had accepted almost 3 million euros in bribes. Dovgy did not waste a minute in raising a public outcry over the fact that he had been placed under surveillance. As it turns out, we live in a country governed by the rule of law; just look at the relentless surveillance of Dovgy.

Dovgy oversaw the dirtiest, highest-profile investigations in the country β€”all of which had nothing to do with fighting corruption but everything to do with the turf war between rival Kremlin clans. Which leads to the question: Why should I feel sorry for Dovgy, who has merely fallen victim to his fellow predators?

Two gangs are battling it out with each other. They unmask spies in TNK-BP, and they get involved not only in oil and gas deals, but in manipulating court decisions as well. If their victims refuse to pay protection money, they interpret it as incitement to overthrow the government's power vertical. If their victims cave in and pay up, they perceive it as a sign of weakness to be exploited further. They are so devoid of conscience that they first take bribes to tip people off about criminal proceedings being initiated against them, and then β€” with the money in hand β€” they push the cases forward to extort even more money.

Now we see that, in addition to lacking a conscience, they are entirely deprived of self-respect. We know this because even a mafia hit man caught with a smoking gun in his hands would never complain to the newspapers about how he had been offended or short-changed.

What's more, the generals completely lack common sense. How else can you explain their attempts to appeal to the public for support of their selfish interests β€” the same people they have scorned for so many years.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.