Putin's inner circle: Another threatened with sanctions, but who are they?
Published Tuesday, April 15, 2014 5:16PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 15, 2014 10:52PM EDT
In an attempt to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from further disruptions in Ukraine, U.S. President Barack Obama warned against more sanctions.
The New York Times reports the White House is working on a new list of targets and on that list is Igor Sechin. He may be most notable because of his close connection to Putin and his nickname – Darth Vader.
“He hasn’t done anything particular to get the nickname, he’s just not a nice guy,” says Hannah Thoburn, a Eurasia analyst with the Foreign Policy Initiative to Kevin Newman Live. “All people around Putin have a long history with him. They are people he trusts.”
Watch the video above to see our full interview with Thoburn.
Sechin is the mastermind of Russia’s modern oil industry and turned Rosneft into the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. Thoburn says as far as she knows Sechin was KGB and worked with Putin in the St. Petersburg’s mayor’s office. According to Stratfor, Sechin was “The Soviet Union’s point man for weapons smuggling to much of Latin America and the Middle East.”
If the sanctions are against Sechin himself it won’t have much impact, but if they are against Rosneft it may make is much more difficult for any company looking to do work in Russia. Thoburn says companies aren’t investing in Russia on fears the Russian economy will suffer in the long-run even with small sanctions.
So that got us thinking – who else is in Putin’s inner circle. After some digging and asking Thoburn we learned it sounds like a Guy Ritchie movie. In addition to Darth Vader there is Vladislav Surkov – a.k.a. the Grey Cardinal. He is also on the U.S. sanctions list. Thoburn describes Surkov as being baby faced and liking poetry and Tupac.
“Last year he seemed to have a falling out and left,” she says. But he showed up in Crimea and for the past number of months has been quite influential there. He is the Kremlin’s main ideologue and helps Putin craft his image plus steps Russia should take next. He is seen as the creator of Russia’s tightly-controlled political system and put more power in the hands of the president. His return was seen as an effort to strengthen the liberal camp in the inner circle.
Then there are the Rotenberg brothers – Arkady and Boris. They are Finnish citizens and co-owners of SMP Bank and SGM Group, a major supplier of construction services to Russian gas giant Gazprom. Thoburn says they have received numerous government contracts including to build roads and stadiums in Sochi for the Olympics. Rotenberg companies received $7.4 billion in contracts for the Games. “That’s how Putin feeds his friends.”
Arkady is the older one and can be seen in photos practicing Judo with Putin when they were kids. Both are listed on the Forbes richest people list with Arkady at No. 386 and Boris at No. 1,073.
These men may seem like ‘yes’ men, but Thoburn says, “From what I’ve heard there is a bit of disagreement.” She adds that they tend to have the same world views so there isn’t much to disagree about, but when they do, they talk it out.
While sanctions are already hitting one of these men, Thoburn says they seem to be getting closer to the inner circle.