April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Russian police raided Moscow’s Skolkovo innovation hub, a project championed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, putting further pressure on the premier a day after a leaked video overshadowed his speech to parliament.
Investigators talked today to the foundation’s head, billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, and other top officials, Skolkovo spokesman Roman Shcherbakov said by phone. The press service of the Moscow-based Investigative Committee, which said in February that it was examining the misspending of 3.5 billion rubles ($111 million) provided to Skolkovo by the government, confirmed that officers had searched the technology hub’s offices.
President Vladimir Putin threatened April 16 to dismiss underperforming officials at a meeting that included members of Medvedev’s Cabinet, according to a video leaked hours before the premier made an annual speech to lawmakers. The footage, which was recorded during a part of the meeting that Putin had asked not to be filmed, showed the Russian leader addressing regional governors during a discussion about housing, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said yesterday.
The leaked warning and today’s raid “are linked indirectly in the sense that they are both negative for Medvedev,” Sergei Markov, a political adviser to Putin’s staff and vice rector of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, said by phone. “Medvedev’s problems are increasing because of his obstinacy and the inefficiency of his government.”
Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov told reporters that he has full confidence in Skolkovo’s leadership and accused unnamed forces of seeking to “politicize” the situation around the innovation hub and discredit the project.
Russia’s $2 trillion economy is growing at the weakest pace since a 2009 contraction as Europe’s debt crisis curbs exports and corporate investment. Putin has told the premier to draw up measures to revive growth after Economy Minister Andrei Belousov warned that a recession is possible without stimulus.
Putin, 60, ceded the presidency after completing the maximum two consecutive terms allowed by the constitution in 2008. Medvedev, 47, became president and appointed Putin his premier, with the two swapping jobs last May after parliamentary elections that sparked the biggest protests of Putin’s political career.
Skolkovo, unveiled in 2010 and based outside Moscow, was a hallmark of Medvedev’s efforts to modernize the world’s biggest energy exporter by weaning Russia off its reliance on commodities and nurturing a knowledge-based economy that can compete globally.
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