- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

MOSCOW — An economist who resigned as President Vladimir Putin’s adviser to protest what he called the government’s backtracking on freedoms accused the Kremlin yesterday of turning Russia into a “corporate” state run by self-interested bureaucrats.

Speaking to Echo Moscow radio, Andrei Illarionov said Russia cannot be considered politically free and warned that government-controlled corporations have stifled competition and ignored the interests of the people.

“These quasi-state corporations are, in fact, driven by private interests while taking advantage of their state status and privileges,” Mr. Illarionov said. “The state has come to serve the interests of several corporations instead of the majority of citizens.”

He said that by following an economic model applied in other oil-rich nations such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, Russia is squandering an opportunity to liberalize its economy at a time of high oil prices.

Mr. Illarionov — the lone dissenter in a Kremlin increasingly dominated by Mr. Putin’s fellow veterans of the KGB, the former Russian secret police and intelligence agency — announced his resignation Tuesday. Mr. Putin quickly accepted.

Mr. Illarionov fell out of favor after criticizing moves to restore state control over the strategic energy sector, in particular the effective nationalization of the Yukos oil empire of the jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2004.

Russia has been widely criticized in the West for rolling back political freedoms that came after the collapse of communism.

Earlier this month, Russian lawmakers approved a widely criticized bill on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), paving the way for the Kremlin to impose strict controls on human rights groups and other civic organizations.

The measure was condemned by domestic and international NGOs and the United States and other Western governments as a serious threat to democracy and civil rights.

The bill awaits Mr. Putin’s signature.

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