Aven: Putin Should Follow Pinochet

As the influential capitalists, known as oligarchs, position themselves in the new Vladimir Putin era, one of them - Alfa Group president Pyotr Aven - urged the president-elect to resort to "totalitarian force" to advance "liberal reforms."

In an interview published Friday in the The Guardian, Aven said Putin should model his regime after that of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and combine Reaganomics with dictatorial controls.

"The only way ahead is for fast liberal reforms, building public support for the path but also using totalitarian force to achieve that. Russia has no other choice," Aven is quoted in English as saying.

In another report by Western reporter, Aven described a conversation with Putin that took place late last year before he was appointed acting president. Putin reportedly asked Aven whether the government should continue allowing independent television channels like NTV to operate. "I responded that of course it should," Le Monde quoted Aven as saying. "There have to be equal conditions for the oligarchs."

Alfa Group spokesman, Andrei Nosonovsky, confirmed Friday that Aven was quoted correctly. The interview with The Guardian took place Wednesday, Nosonovsky said. The Le Monde report was based on a conversation with Aven at a dinner party several weeks ago, in which he recalled his talks with Putin in December.

"Aven did not advise Putin of anything," Nosonovsky said. "He simply expressed his opinion."

Aven told The Guardian that the government may have to resort to extralegal means to fight crime and corruption. "Nobody follows the law in this country," he was quoted as saying. "Pinochet tried to enforce obedience to the law and sometimes that's difficult for a country. Sometimes you need to use force. The only role of the state is to use force when needed. ... You can't always fight criminals by staying within the law. You can't always do it peacefully."

At the same time, Aven denied that he was urging a return to Soviet-era repression, the British newspaper said.

Aven said he saw similarities between the situations in Russia and in Chile. "I'm a supporter of Pinochet, not as a person but as a politician who produced results for his country. He was not corrupt. He supported his team of economists for 10 years. You need strength for that. I see that parallel here. There are similarities in the situation."

Interviews with the Western press, which are then picked up by the local media, have been among the oligarchs' favorite means of sending public messages to one another and to those in power.

The Segodnya daily, which like NTV is owned by Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST and has been used to project Gusinsky's interests, wrote Friday in a front-page article that Putin's question about the fate of NTV revealed his attitude toward Gusinsky, whose media have not obediently followed the Kremlin line.

Commenting on Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov's reported comparison of Boris Berezovsky and Gusinsky to "bacteria" who live in disintegrating bodies, Segodnya said that "the Kremlin is initiating a show flogging for manageable Berezovsky in order to properly 'waste' unmanageable Gusinsky."

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