Reforms have brought a degree of transparency to Ukraine’s political system. A legacy of oligarch interference over political institutions, however, is not so easily disrupted; evident in media revelations that President Poroshenko has prioritised the security and growth of his business interests over the promises he made to the electorate. As Ukraine’s future balances between progress and regression, will the balance tilt towards further reform, or will the road towards a new oligarch class and influence be opened?
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Although Moscow is keen to maintain some degree of influence over Kazakhstan, there are strong indications that Astana is repositioning its foreign policy focus. A careful balancing between East and West has been replaced by a marked shift towards anti-Russian defiance – seen in alternative foreign ties, internal social and cultural policies, and reshuffles of the political elite.
With the presidential elections just six months away, the attention of the Kremlin is on targeting the social media audience efficiently to avoid the repetition of 2012 scenario. However, attempts to engage and mobilise Internet users have been sporadic and clumsy while their effect has been marred with the Kremlin’s continuous attempts to increase Internet censorship.
Increased affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church has proved to be a trend among Russia’s elite groups during Putin’s third presidential term. Both the church and elite groups benefit from their mutual allegiance. While power players finance Church operations, the Church provides ideological backing to the Kremlin and a positive public image for business elite.
During the economic recession, the Kremlin suggested that private players would need to secure their own financing to advance its energy ambitions in the Arctic. This might result in renewed corporate disputes, as state-owned monopolists of the Arctic shelf are determined to retain control over the hydrocarbon reserves of the Russian High North.
There is a shake-up of power players in Kazakhstan’s nuclear sector. In the midst of waning Russian influence, and growing Chinese interests, the political elite group known as the Southerners have been given another opportunity to expand their footprint in the country’s political and commercial echelons of influence. Nuclear sector dynamics are thus simultaneously highlighting Astana’s geopolitical and political realignments.
VTB’s involvement in the Mozambique debt scandal attracted attention to the bank’s operations in Africa and other foreign countries. The bank is closely connected to Russia’s most powerful elite groups who frequently use it to solve politically-sensitive problems. VTB’s foreign activity should be closely monitored vis-à-vis the Kremlin’s attempts to use it to informally promote its foreign policy goals.
The legal battle between Rosneft-Sistema over Bashneft is one of the largest lawsuits involving Russian energy companies since the Yukos case, which also involved illegal privatisation and the arrest of senior officials. Rightly so, investors are worried that this case will have significant repercussions for the investment environment.
Russia’s banking sector is undergoing the largest reshuffle in decades. The result is that over 50% of banking assets are controlled by a handful of large state- and private-owned entities, through which informal networks leverage their influence. Details of the power dynamics and influence power players wield over Russia’s banks are provided in the Report Store.
With the 2018 presidential elections looming and the electoral campaign about to start, Russia’s political elite find themselves in disarray. The rumblings inside the Kremlin have it that the position of prime minister might soon become vacant – but who are the front runners, and what do they bring to the party?
Over the past few years, children of Russia’s elite groups have – with increasing frequency - been appointed to high-profile positions in state-owned corporations and ministries, or have taken over their parents’ business. Shadow Governance examines how blood relations, combined with strong societal networks, are used to exert influence and engage in resource distribution.
With the presidential elections in less than a year, all domestic developments in Russia should be interpreted through the prism of the ongoing electoral campaign. While Putin’s re-election is not questioned, evolving international, economic and social context pose new challenges to his campaign, and intensify elite infighting.