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Opponents of the Crimean annexation: intelligence hunts Russia's largest car dealer

2019-09-07T17:13:26.348Z

He has made a fortune with his "Rolf" car houses, he sat in parliament and is said to have financed the opposition. Therefore the businessman Sergey Petrov was targeted by the Russian authorities?




There are figures in which the development of a country seems to be condensing. The Russian businessman Sergei Petrov has such a biography: Born 65 years ago in the Soviet Union, in the nineties has risen to the league of Russia's new Russian super-rich, the country's largest car dealer. 2007 Entry into politics as part of an experiment approved by the rulers - and then out of favor.

How deep Petrov's fall will now be exactly, can not be concluded yet. In Russia, he faces at least ten years imprisonment. The FSB has it on him, officials searched dozens of car dealerships. On Friday, the Russian authorities announced Petrov for international search. In Moscow, they have not gotten hold of him, Petrov is staying in Vienna, his second residence.

Officially, he is accused of irregularities in payments as part of a restructuring of his company, violations of Russian rules on payment transactions in foreign currencies: The sales price of his chain "Rolf" had been in 2014 many times excessive, the authorities claim. Four billion dollars should have flowed then. However, identifying a victim in the case is difficult: the process was apparently an internal restructuring, buyers and sellers were each company, which controls Petrov itself.

A failed experiment of the Kremlin

Or is it perhaps something else? Shortly before the first searches in June, several Russian media reported that Petrov was financing opponents of President Vladimir Putin. In particular, he is "sponsor of Alexei Navalny". It was noteworthy, among other things, who targeted the entrepreneur there: The rumors were spread by media such as the "news agency" RIA FAN, which are attributed to the environment of the "troll factory" in St. Petersburg. So the troupe, which had taken part in the US election campaign on Facebook and Twitter for Donald Trump, among others. Petrov himself denied supporting Nawalny.

On the other hand, unlike most of the Russian super-rich, he never made a secret of his political opinion. In 1982 he was arrested for "anti-Soviet activities". Petrov later said he was a "person of liberal views" and convinced that only a "strong social democracy could pull Russia out of the quagmire".

For a long time, such comments were not a big problem for Putin's stripper. On the contrary, the Kremlin was even the inspiration when a new state party was launched in 2007: "Just Russia" should establish itself as a left-wing alternative to the other Kremlin party "United Russia". And Petrov became one of the most prominent faces of the new force in the State Duma. The idea was that the political system could enjoy more popular support if the Kremlin itself offered a party alternative.

Four against the Crimea

However, the experiment went awry. The Russian nomenklatura was overwhelmed, in the provinces, governors and authorities had obvious difficulties - because they did not know which of the two parties should support their apparatuses now. Parts of "Just Russia" also tried to emancipate themselves politically. They preferred to see Dmitry Medvedev a second term in the presidency, and no return from Putin, prime minister from 2008 to 2012.

This had consequences: The parliamentary faction was cleaned, excluded Medvedev supporters as the former intelligence squad Gennady Gudkov from the Duma (more on the topic can be found here: Colonel Abnicker takes on with Putin). Today, "Just Russia" is just a recorder, with no real political weight. The entrepreneur Petrov retained his mandate until 2016. But with his voting behavior, he did not make many friends: He spoke out against the Gudkov expulsion, against the tightening of censorship on the Russian Internet.

More importantly, when the Russian parliament approved the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Petrov was one of just four MPs who refused to vote.

According to his lawyer, the FSB intelligence service began listening in 2015 to Petrov's phones. Russian media speculate that it may be a kind of retaliatory act. The entrepreneur himself believes that someone within the security services has probably kept an eye on his companies and wants to take them away.

It's probably both.

Source: spiegel

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