The ubiquitous corruption and lack of accountability in Vladimir Putin’s Russia were, until recently, easy to sweep under the rug. But the relentless decline in oil prices is making the president’s political bets unsafe. Now the country’s problems are beginning to fester in plain view, giving the regime a tough choice: Start liberalizing or go for harsh repression.
The case of Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika will be a weather vane of what’s to come. He was justice minister when Putin became president in 2000, running, among other things, Russia’s vast prison system. In 2006, Putin made him prosecutor general. Apart from prosecuting cases on the state’s behalf, the prosecutor general’s office exercises control over all criminal investigations and coordinates the activities of all law enforcement bodies, making the prosecutor general one of the country’s most influential people. Continue reading