Prosecutors charged Storchak on November 15 with conspiracy to embezzle $43 million through a complex scheme involving Algerian obligations to Russia. But observers fret that the charges were part of a plan to weaken the position of his boss, finance chief Alexei Kudrin, who was promoted to deputy prime minister in a government shake-up in September, and maybe weaken his control over the $148 billion stabilization fund from oil revenue that Kudrin has guarded against mounting pressure to spend or invest in Russian stocks.
One interpretation is that people are undermining Kudrin politically, says Katya Malofeeva, chief economist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow. Another is that people are fighting for how the stabilization fund should be managed.
Kudrin pleaded personally for Storchaks release until trial, but to no avail: Law enforcement authorities denied the deputy prime minister even a visit to Moscows Lefortovo prison, where Storchak is being held.
Comments Yuri Korgunyuk, an analyst with the Indem Foundation, a think tank in Moscow, There is not much chance of his being freed until after the election, anyway.