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Is Russia Taking Steps To Reverse 1990s’ ‘Overnight’ Privatization of State Companies?

Russia has announced that it has arrested Yury Antipov and seized three of his factories, asserting that the privatizations in the 1990s were illegal or at least improper. These were some of the privatizations of state-sector companies, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which made a number of beneficiaries overnight billionaires. The most famous previous case was that of multi-billionaire oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who took over Yukos Oil. His arrest in 2003, along with cohort Platon Lebedev, chairman of the financial conglomerate Menatep, marked a panic in the West that Putin was calling the bluff of the looting of the Soviet Union by London-linked oligarchs.

EIR revealed at the time: “The legal assault against multi-billionaire oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky reflects a power struggle in Russia of strategic proportions. On July 2, Russian police arrested Platon Lebedev, chairman of the financial conglomerate Menatep, the right-hand man of top Russian ‘oligarchs’ Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Roman Abramovich, and major shareholder in Khodorkovsky’s giant oil company Yukos. Together with Lebedev, who was charged with defrauding the Russian state of nearly $500 million in a 1994 stock privatization, the Russian authorities also arrested Alexei Pichugin, a security chief of Yukos, for alleged involvement in two murders last year. Shortly thereafter, Khodorkovsky himself was summoned to the Russian Prosecutor’s office for questioning. Meanwhile, a chorus of economic liberals both inside and outside Russia is warning that the crackdown on Lebedev’s illegal takeover of state property in 1994, might signal a shift in Putin’s position concerning the whole process of ‘criminal privatization’ in the early 1990s. At that time, a handful of upstart slick operators was able to seize control over the gigantic mineral and industrial assets of the country.”

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