HUNTING DOWN YEGOR GAIDAR


30.11.06
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Kolesnikov)

It was not a heart attack, a blood stroke or a hypertension crisis. It was a poisoning, but, obviously, not a common one.
A council of the best doctors convened by Anatoly Chubais has failed to agree on a diagnosis. What happened to one of Russia’s most prominent politicians of the early 1990s is still a mystery. In this context, even those observers who usually do not fall for conspiracy theories will put Yegor Gaidar’s poisoning in one line with the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko. Chubais could have been excessively emotional assessing the sudden undiagnosed illness of his ally and friend, but the conclusion that it was a poisoning attempt makes sense.
Although what happened in Dublin did not destabilize the political situation, it created an atmosphere of uncertainty. Everyone asks the obvious question: who will be the next? Who will be fourth or fifth in this impressive line of very different, but equally prominent figures: an investigative journalist, an infamous ex-FSB officer, an architect of the Russian economic reform?
Litvinenko is not Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze, whose murder disrupted confidence in Ukraine’s former president Leonid Kuchma and served as a detonator for the Orange revolution. But his death has made a similar impact: the West’s mistrust in Russia grows regardless of who exactly ordered the killing. (To say nothing of the fact that most probably, no one will ever know the truth, while the impressions will remain.)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose poisoning has never been solved, can hardly be compared to Yegor Gaidar. What they have in common is that they are both important and prominent politicians, definitely liberal and pro-Western, promoting a clear cut set of political, economic and cultural values. Almost everyone doubted that Yushchenko had been poisoned even though the future president’s face was terribly disfigured.
Gaidar does not aspire to presidency and, moreover, has been recently shunning politics. Yet his influence on the modern Russian economic establishment remains significant – he is viewed as a guru. More importantly, he is still the “antihero” for the public, the person who destroyed the empire and the Soviet way of life. So this poisoning attempt (if it was really so) reminds both of the Yushchenko case and of the attempt on Chubais’s life, which was de facto approved by Russians with strong nationalistic sentiments. Yet in Gaidar’s case it does not occur to anyone even to suspect that he could have organized it himself.
If we assess the three high-profile murders/attempts – Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, Gaidar – each of them, being well known in their own way, was not a typical target for criminals or politicians. The only thing these three cases share is that they have received mass coverage, generated thoughts of political terrorism and of the potential existence of a political underground, a union of secret avengers, and all of this has been a severe blow to Russia’s image.
Gaidar’s was the third episode in this unheard-of chain of events. But it was obviously not the last one. –0–