Putin Critic Becomes EBRD's First Russian Chief Economist

  • Sergei Guriev to join London-based lender next summer
  • Adviser fled Russia for Paris exile in 2013, fearing arrest

A former Russian government adviser critical of President Vladimir Putin is the new chief economist of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the first representative of the country to hold the position.

Sergei Guriev, 44, who has ties to ex-Yukos oil chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky and opposition activist Alexey Navalny, will join the bank in summer 2016 after fulfilling academic commitments, the London-based lender said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. He currently teaches at Sciences Po in Paris.

“He brings a huge amount of experience and expertise to the job and to the Bank’s Executive Committee,” EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti said. “He has a deep knowledge of the countries where we operate and, as Chief Economist, will play a major role in helping us to deliver our mission.”

Guriev succeeds Erik Berglof, an expert on transition economies who was chief economist from 2006 until the end of last year. The EBRD was set up by Western governments in 1991 to help former communist countries make the switch to capitalism. It stopped investing in new Russian projects last year because of European Union sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict.

“It is an honor to be asked,” Guriev, who has previously served on the external advisory panel of the chief economist’s office, said, according to the EBRD’s statement. “The Bank plays an important part in helping to develop the economies of our countries and I look forward to my involvement in that work.”

Fled Russia

Guriev was an adviser to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet before he fled to France in 2013 to avoid prosecution in a criminal case linked to Khodorkovsky’s funding of his economics institute in Moscow. He was questioned as a witness in the case and was targeted because he was working on an economic manifesto for Navalny, according to a government official.

Putin said on Oct. 1 that he’d welcome Guriev’s return to Russia and that the economist didn’t face any criminal proceedings. “He is a smart man and a very good expert,” the president said at a meeting of the Kremlin’s human rights body.

Guriev, whose family was already living in Paris, stepped down as rector of the New Economics School in Moscow when he left Russia. Khodorkovsky, who is also abroad, has been financing vote monitoring and civil society projects in Russia since he was set free in 2013 after a decade in prison that he says was revenge for his opposition to the Kremlin.

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