First Top Kremlin Official to Quit Over Ukraine War

First Top Kremlin Official to Quit Over Ukraine War

A prominent adviser to Vladimir Putin has resigned from the government and reportedly left Russia in the highest-ranking defection yet over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Anatoly Chubais, the Kremlin’s special envoy for relations with international organizations for sustainable development, was confirmed on Wednesday to have left the government.

Chubais’ resignation was motivated by his “opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine”, two people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg News, which first reported the story.

Chubais is now reportedly in Turkey, where the newspaper Kommersant published a photograph of a man resembling the former Kremlin official at a cashpoint. Chubais was allegedly sighted in Istanbul as early as last week.

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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov confirmed that Chubais had resigned from the government on Wednesday but did not say whether or not he had left the country.

“Yes. Chubais has resigned voluntarily. And it is up to him whether to leave or not,” Peskov said during a daily press briefing, according to the Interfax news agency.

Chubais is not a particularly influential member of the government and has no say in security affairs, but his resignation will create headlines in a country where most Russians know his name.

Chubais is best known as the architect of Russia’s controversial privatization scheme in the 1990s, which helped create the country’s market economy but also concentrated immense wealth in the hands of a group of wealthy oligarchs.

A former chief of staff under Boris Yeltsin, Chubais recommended Putin for his first Kremlin position as deputy chief of the presidential staff in 1997, several years before he emerged as Yeltsin’s successor.

The former economist held a number of government roles during the 2000s, including the head of the state-run Rusnano firm. He was named Putin’s climate envoy in 2020.

In his years in government, Chubais established himself as a consummate political survivor, maintaining a role in Russia’s government despite his liberal credentials and the lingering anger over the pain of the Yeltsin government’s economic reforms.

Yet after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last month, he began to air signs of discontent, posting images of the slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and that of the liberal economist Yegor Gaidar, who had warned of the dangers of imperial ambitions under Putin.

“In our arguments about Russia’s future I didn’t always agree with him,” Chubais wrote. “But it appears that Gaidar understood strategic risk better than I, and that I was wrong.”

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Very few current or former Kremlin officials have spoken out against the war. Arkady Dvorkovich, a former chief economic adviser to Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chair of the Russian security council and former president, condemned the war in an interview with Mother Jones magazine last week, saying: “Wars are the worst things one might face in life … My thoughts are with Ukrainian civilians.” He was promptly fired from his remaining government positions.

 




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