The Foreign Secretary of the country that has perhaps benefitted most from Russian globetrotting oligarchs warns against Russian “oligarchisation.” Any bets on who is mostly likely to be Gaddafied off first – Cameron or Putin? Calls to famous Russian oligarchs residing in Britain reportedly went unanswered.
“Separately, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned that the same gangster capitalism that has blighted both Russia and Ukraine was now spreading to parts of Europe, particularly the former republics of Yugoslavia and Greece, which is still reeling from the Eurozone crash.
In an article for today’s Sunday Telegraph, in which he described Russia’s annexation of Crimea as “an outrageous land grab”, Mr Hague said that networks of pro-Kremlin oligarchs had gained a strong foothold in the region, via investment in the energy sector, the media, and buy-ups of struggling banks.
That has bought increasing Kremlin influence with the region’s leaders, some of whom have gone so far as publicly backing Russia’s military action in Ukraine.
Warning of what he described as Russian “oligarchisation” coming to south-east Europe, Mr Hague said: “There is an evident danger of some of the same corrupting habits spreading into democratic countries. In South East Europe and the Balkans in particular, we are seeing the creation of concentrations of economic, political and media power which could inhibit the development of genuine or stable democracy and reverse progress already made.”
A British government source said the situation raised potential concerns about the European Union’s plans to offer membership to Bosnia and Serbia, both of which are home to hardline Serb factions who are strongly-pro Russian. “You do have to ask how much the EU would want to have a specially close relationship with countries that are so heavily in thrall to the Kremlin,” the source said.
Only last week, Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Republika Serbska, a Serbian statelet within Bosnia that is strongly pro-Russian, described last Sunday’s referendum in Crimea on joining Russia as “legitimate and democratic”. America and the EU have denounced the referendum as an illegal charade carried out “down the barrel of a gun”. “