VodkaPundit

Digesting Crimea

Russian navy battle ships station in the bay during a rehearsal of the Russian Navy Day parade in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, July 24, 2015. The Russian Navy Day is celebrated the last Sunday of July. (AP Photo/Alexander Polegenko)

Russian navy battle ships station in the bay during a rehearsal of the Russian Navy Day parade in Sevastopol, Crimea, Friday, July 24, 2015. The Russian Navy Day is celebrated the last Sunday of July. (AP Photo/Alexander Polegenko)

It isn’t all caviar and vodka for Russia’s newest province:

Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, has opened criminal investigations of three high-ranking Crimean government officials, accusing them of graft and other misdeeds. Four regional cabinet ministers have been forced from office in the past few months over allegations of corruption. And Kremlin auditors reported in June that two-thirds of the money Moscow sent Crimea last year for road building couldn’t be accounted for.

Crimean Governor Sergey Aksyonov, elected in April 2014 with Putin’s blessing, has reacted angrily to the allegations. Addressing Crimean cabinet ministers on July 7, he accused Moscow of trying to “destabilize” Crimea and using “fabricated” evidence against those under investigation, who include the region’s industrial policy minister, its chief tax inspector, and the director of the port of Yalta. “No one will make victims of our officials,” Aksyonov said.

The real friction? Dividing the loot between the new local government and Putin and his cronies:

The FSB investigations probably reflect a struggle for control of “the main valves of corruption” in Crimea, says Andrew Foxall, director of the Russia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society in London. “This same kind of thing happens in every Russian region.” Moscow tolerates some corruption among regional leaders, Foxall says, but expects them to share the spoils with Kremlin-backed interests. Those who don’t may be subjected to criminal investigation and arrest.

So it’s just business as usual then.