Sergei Guriev, an associate of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and rector of the New Economic School in Moscow, has fled Russia to avoid possible prosecution in a criminal case, said two people with knowledge of the matter.
Investigators questioned Guriev as a witness and raided the school, prompting his departure from the country, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. They didn’t say where he is.
The economics institute is being investigated for receiving funds from the jailed former billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, according to a third person. Guriev said by e-mail that he’s outside of Russia now, without commenting on whether he’s facing a criminal probe. The academic was questioned a month ago in a case involving Yukos, the oil company Khodorkovsky owned, Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, said by phone, declining to elaborate.
Three ministers in Medvedev’s Cabinet have been fired or forced out in the past seven months, most recently Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov, the government’s chief of staff. The announcement of Surkov’s resignation came a few days after he publicly criticized a criminal investigation into the use of state funds at the Skolkovo technology hub, a signature project for Medvedev which the former deputy premier oversaw.
Putin, 60, reclaimed the presidency last year from Medvedev, 47, who had stood in for him for four years because of a constitutional ban on more than two consecutive Kremlin terms. As president, Medvedev pushed for less state control of the economy and an anti-corruption drive, and in January he said he may run for the post again when Putin’s third term ends in 2018.
Guriev, 41, who serves as an economic adviser to Medvedev’s government, yesterday withdrew his nomination as a member of the supervisory board of state-run lender OAO Sberbank. He said he took the decision “for personal and family reasons that are not related to Sberbank.”
Guriev has also resigned from his post as rector of the institute, Interfax reported, citing Finance Minister Anton Siluanov as saying he was sorry to see him go.
Khodorkovsky, 49, once Russia’s richest man, is serving 13 years in prison under two separate convictions for fraud, tax evasion and oil embezzlement that he says are retribution for funding opposition parties during Putin’s presidency. The Kremlin denies the accusations. Yukos was sold in pieces, mostly to state-run OAO Rosneft, to cover tens of billions of dollars in back taxes.
Guriev was targeted for working on an economic ideas for opposition leader Alexey Navalny, according to a government official who asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
Navalny, 36, is on trial in the city of Kirov, facing as much as 10 years in prison over charges that he defrauded state-owned timber company Kirovles of 16 million rubles ($508,000). He denies any wrongdoing and says the case is payback for helping lead the biggest protests against Putin’s 13-year rule in 2011. He also faces other criminal cases.
Guriev said he advised Navalny “on many things.” Navalny declined by phone to comment.