How Irresponsible Is Putin? Let's Ask This Russian Guy Who Embezzled a Billion Dollars

Like all karate black belts, Vladimir Putin is incapable of anticipating anything. He's “not someone who sets strategic plans; he lives today.” He's as unpredictable as a menopausal woman [no offense, Mom – Riley]. Sometimes he even barricades himself in his Kremlin nuclear fallout shelter for hours on end, snacking on buckets of tasty popcorn shrimps as he watchesBridget Jones's Diary over and over again.

We know all of this thanks to Russia's bravest political dissident-in-exile, Sergei Pugachev, who describes Putin as a comatose Ritalin-befogged vegetable: “With [Putin] it was just quiet, no one there, no meetings, everything quiet. He’d sit there, or watch TV. He really likes watching TV.”

Russia's bloodthirsty dictator-for-life is...Chauncey Gardener? Fancy that. “I can't write. I can't read. I like to watch TV. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well in Russia.” Finally, the mystery of Vladimir Putin has been solved forever.

Who is Sergey Pugachev, and how did he become privy to so many hot Putin scoops?

Pugachev is a Russian businessman once so well connected in Moscow that he was called the “Kremlin’s banker.” He and Putin were banya buddies; they went fishing together, drank beer, swapped wives – they did all the things that close friends do. But then tragedy struck. As Time explains with stunning panache:

Yes, it's time for everybody's favorite Internet game, “click on the link.” This particular link took us to a Financial Times article. Well, here it is:

In Time's version of the FT story, Pugachev's “position collapsed” after Putin thieved his prosperous business enterprises, forcing him and his $2 billion to take the Underground Railroad to freedom.

But in FT's version of its own story, Pugachev fled to London after he embezzled a 40 billion ruble bailout intended for his “collapsed bank.”

So what exactly collapsed? Pugachev's “position” or his “bank”? And did Pugachev flee because Putin robbed him, or because he stole tens of billions of rubles from Russia's Central Bank? Which version of FT's story should we believe? The FT version, or the Time version of the FT version? Life is full of difficult questions. But maybe a different Financial Times article can help us solve this serpentine riddle:

Mr Pugachev’s own problems began with the 2010 collapse of Mezhprombank, the top 30 lender he founded. He fled Russia in 2011 for exile in London as the state moved to take over his shipyards, as part of efforts to recover funds from the bank. Last year, a Moscow court issued a warrant for his arrest, blaming him for the bank’s failure.

Once again, Time has been vindicated. Although if we insist on being pedantic, maybe it would have been appropriate to mention that the Russian government seized Pugachev's businesses only after he nonchalantly “transferred $700 million in Central Bank bailout funds to an account in Switzerland controlled by his son,” and then ran for his life.

That's the baseless allegation leveled against Pugachev by the Russian Deposit Insurance Agency. We say “baseless” because in July a London court froze more than $2 billion of this poor political refugee's assets. And as everyone knows, the UK and Russia are in cahoots. The two nations are on such friendly terms that David Cameron even calls Putin by his Russian patronymic, “Hitler.”

But Pugachev will not sit idly as the UK and Russia plot against him. By way of retaliation he has decided to tell Time magazine terrifying and impossible-to-confirm stories about Vladimir Putin. Thank God there is a man brave enough to speak truth to power – and a tabloid brave enough to publish it all.

Unfortunately, truth-tellers always pay a high price for their insubordination. Now allowed only £10,000 a week, Pugachev and his partner Alexandra Tolstoy live in fear of the almshouse.

“We are just surviving at the moment,” [Tolstoy] told the Daily Mail, while admitting she was “a clothes-aholic”.

She added: “Sergei tells me off for buying too much but he says we shouldn’t be ashamed of our lifestyle and, yes, I love shopping.”

Bear your cross with head held high, Imelda Alexandra. God bless you.

Once a week your lowly Russia correspondent labors, probably with zero effectiveness, to illustrate how America's trusted news organs continue to expose the dark underbelly of the Proto-Fascist Russian Bear. Whether it's an expose about a Siberian death laboratory spreading Ebola; a shocking report of Putin awarding outspoken Nazis with military ribbons; a chilling saga of a damaged Russian submarine in Swedish waters calling for emergency nuclear war backup; even an outrageous proposition to let airplane murderers retire to Miami – it's clear that Russia has no concept of basic dignity.

Putin's Russia is now completely isolated from the truth-loving West, but the situation is still perilous.

The battle for the hearts and minds of North America is not being fought in a conventional NATO way, with night raids and airstrikes and black site torture prisons and so forth, but rather with explosive information. The insurgency here at home is not planting IEDs (although American law enforcement now enjoy the protection of mine-resistant trucks); rather, it is detonating malicious information bombs, which disrupt our happy center of gravity, to wit our national will. These dark forces, which live among us, and maybe even in the condo next door, work tirelessly for unauthorized disclosure; for disrupting automated decision-making; for giving aid and comfort to terrorism. To lose the information war in the Homeland would have catastrophic consequences for our global activism abroad in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and at least 70 other countries.

Every citizen is a sentinel, and every television is a sentry box. And when a sentinel, ready and alert, is stationed at his post, the tank treads stay greased with the blood of our enemies.

Three cheers for Time magazine, and three boos for our permanent enemy, Russia.

[Time / Financial Times / Financial Times also, too / The Independent / London Evening Standard]

Riley Waggaman is “America’s most trusted cub reporter,” according to Vanity Fair. He is not a reporter and he does not live in America. He can be reached at riley.waggaman at gmail dot com. Also, he is now on Twitter, just for a laugh. His previous dispatches from deep within Russia can be read here.


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