Russian media are widely reporting, citing sources in both the Putin administration and in the FSB, that the notorious head of the Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, will resign shortly after the Duma elections tomorrow. The Kremlin’s Spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t confirm the resignation, saying he doesn’t know anything about the rumors, and adding that he doesn’t have any new information on the matter. (Usually, when Peskov says he doesn’t know anything about something—and he does so frequently—it is a de facto confirmation.)
The news follows the recent resignation of Bastrykin’s closest ally, the Investigative Commitee’s press-secretary Major General Vladimir Markin.
This latest episode is taking place less then two months after after the most recent attack on the Investigative Committee. In July the FSB busted into the Moscow offices of the Investigative Committee and searched the offices of the department’s head, Aleksandr Drymanov, his first deputy, Denis Nikandrov, the Interior Security directorate head, Mikhail Maksimenko, and his deputy, Aleksandr Lamonov. The last three were later arrested by order of the court on suspicion of being involved in criminal activities with a criminal kingpin that goes by the name of Young Shakro; Drymanov, the closest ally of Aleksandr Bastrykin, later resigned.
After a notably long period of silence, Vladimir Markin spoke up, calling it a bitter shame that his colleagues had been found to be cavorting with thieves, and said that “the self-purification work will go on”.
Apparently, the self-purification did continue—up to the very top.
As we previously wrote, General Viktor Zolotov, the National Guard head, was behind the FSB’s attack on Bastrykin. The two had been clashing, on and off, since 2007, when the massive Three Wales smuggling case took place in Russia, which had the FSB, the Interior Ministry, and other law enforcement agencies involved in multi-billion dollar furniture smuggling schemes. As The New Times magazine reported, Bastrykin and Zolotov stood on opposite sides of the fight.
Also, several different sources confirm that the two loathe each other.
Aleksandr Bastrykin has been heading the Investigative Committee of Russia since January of 2011, when the body was first created. Before that he had headed the Investigative Committee of the General Attorney’s Office, as Deputy Attorney General. (This body was created in 2007 and was abolished in 2011; Bastrykin was it’s first and last head.) The Three Whales cases epitomized a fight between the Investigative Committee and the Attorney General’s office that has never really stopped. The feud yielded a series of leaks of compromising material, which have allowed the Russian people to savor various fascinating details of powerful officials’ lives. Like how Aleksandr Bastrykin used to run his businesses in the Czech Republic, and how he has retained permanent residency permits there. Or how Attorney General Yuri Chaika’s son is connected to criminal gangs in Russia. (That last leak led to a huge investigation and a movie made by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, an organization led by Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Despite all that, Yuri Chaika kept his position.)
Aleksandr Bastrykin’s resignation, if it comes to pass as rumored, will be the sixth major resignation in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle in the past four months. First there was Federal Protection Service (FSO) head Evgeny Murov; then the head of Department K of the Economic Security Service (SEB) of the FSB, Viktor Voronin; soon after, the head of the SEB lost his post as well; then there was Federal Custom Service head; less then a month later, Putin’s closest and longest-serving ally, one of the most powerful men in Russia, the head of the Presidential Administration, Sergey Ivanov resigned out of the blue, and was given the newly-created position of Presidential Envoy for Ecology.
As to who might replace him, Russian media is reporting that two names are being considered: Bastrykin’s deputy Major General Igor Krasnov, and Saint-Petersburg’s Governor Georgy Poltavchenko.