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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Russian Market-Reform Advocate's Mysterious Illness Generates Intrigue

First, there is this story from November 23, the same day Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning:

Gaidar's Daughter Hangs Anti-State Banner, The Associated Press: The daughter of former Prime Minster Yegor Gaidar, Maria, and a second protester rappelled off a bridge near the Kremlin on Thursday and hung a banner criticizing President Vladimir Putin's government for changes to election law.

The duo unfurled a 15-meter banner reading "Return the Elections to the People, Bastards!" and hung from the Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge for more than 30 minutes before police and emergency workers hauled them up and detained them. ...

Then, on November 24:

Unnatural' Illness Almost Killed Russia's Gaidar, by Sebastian Alison, Bloomberg: Russia's former prime minister Yegor Gaidar almost died of a mystery illness on Nov. 24, and his death would have suited opponents of the government, Anatoly Chubais, chief executive of OAO Unified Energy System, said.

Gaidar, 50, became ill in Ireland the day after former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, an opponent of President Vladimir Putin, died in London with a ''significant'' quantity of radioactive Polonium 210 in his system.

''Yegor Gaidar was within a hair's breadth of death on Nov. 24,'' Chubais told journalists in St. Petersburg today, in remarks e-mailed to Bloomberg News by his office. ''Could it have been some kind of natural illness? To judge by what the most professional doctors say, no.''

While Litvinenko had accused Putin of complicity in his death in a message dictated before he died, Chubais ruled out any involvement of the state in his friend's mystery illness. He said he didn't believe in ''a conspiracy of bloody pro-Putin secret police'' trying to eliminate Gaidar, and suggested the move may have been an attempt by the president's critics to discredit him. ...

''This deadly triangle of Politkovskaya-Litvinenko-Gaidar, which only didn't come off by a miracle, would have been extremely attractive for supporters of an unconstitutional, violent change of power in Russia,'' Chubais said.

Gaidar, who was prime minister for six months in 1992 under then-president Boris Yeltsin, was ''unconscious for three hours,'' his daughter Maria Gaidar told state broadcaster Russia Today...

More on Gaidar:

Gaidar Ill With Mystery Ailment, by Carl Schreck and Maria Levitov, The Moscow Times: Former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, the architect of Russia's turbulent transition to a market economy, became violently ill last week while in Ireland, prompting speculation he had been targeted for assassination. ...

Gaidar is best known for abolishing the country's price controls in early 1992. His "shock therapy," widely blamed for wiping out the life savings of millions of Russians, earned him widespread scorn.

When, in September 2003, Gaidar's party, the Union of Right Forces, announced that the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq had invited Gaidar to help craft a recovery plan, pundits joked that Washington was unleashing a weapon of mass destruction on the Iraqi people. ...

Echoing the state-controlled media's take on Litvinenko's death, State Duma Deputy and journalist Alexander Khinshtein said Gaidar might have been poisoned by those looking to discredit the Kremlin.

"I don't exclude [the possibility that there is] a systematic plan, developed in the West, to massively discredit top Russian officials, the security forces, as well as President Putin, by blatantly attempting to liquidate members and ideologues of the liberal wing of Russian politics," Khinshtein said by e-mail. ...

To confuse things a bit:

Gaidar's entourage denies radioactive poisoning, Interfax: The entourage of Yegor Gaidar, a former Russian acting prime minister, has categorically denied reports alleging that he was poisoned by radioactive isotopes.

"Yegor Timurovich [Gaidar] is in Moscow now. His health is satisfactory. He intends to get down to work in the near future," Gaidar's press secretary Valery Natarov told Interfax on Wednesday.

While the Washington Times reports tonight that:

Miss Gaidar, an opposition activist, told Reuters news agency ... "He is in Moscow and doctors are trying to come up with a diagnosis but they can't find one. His condition is satisfactory and he is speaking, but he looks very bad -- he looks pale and thin."

This caught my attention because of his role in market-reform and privatization. Not sure what to make of this. Intriguing. If you haven't read Polonium, Fresh from the Reactor at Brad DeLong's, it's worth taking the time to do so.

    Posted by on Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (8)


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