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
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.
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
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
“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.”
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.