Anatoly Chubais has resigned as President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy, the first senior official to break with the Kremlin since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine a month ago.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday that Chubais had resigned, adding that he did so of his own accord.
Chubais, who once served as former President Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff, left his post as Putin’s special representative for ties with international organisations, one of the sources familiar with the matter told the Reuters news agency.
He was appointed to the post, which was charged with “achieving goals of sustainable development”, in 2020, days after resigning as the head of state technology firm Rusnano, which he had run since 2008.
According to Reuters news agency sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Chubais quit due to the conflict in Ukraine and has also left the country. He does not intend to return to Russia, one of the sources said.
Putin calls the war in Ukraine a “special military operation” that he says was necessary because NATO’s enlargement threatened Russia, and because Russia needed to halt what he called the “genocide” of Russian-speaking people in Ukraine since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine and its Western backers dismiss the claims of genocide. They believe Russia launched an unprovoked war to subjugate a neighbour that Putin calls an artificial state.
Chubais was one of a small group of influential economists under Yegor Gaidar who tried to cement Russia’s post-Soviet transition, which threw tens of millions of former Soviet citizens into poverty.
He was one of the most prominent Russians of the chaotic immediate post-Soviet era. Enemies cast him as the Kremlin puppet master who sold off the assets of a former superpower to a small group of oligarchs in the privatisations of the 1990s.
But to supporters, Chubais was a hero who fought to establish a market in Russia – and prevented it from tipping into civil war. When trouble loomed, it was often Chubais who post-Soviet Russia turned to.
In the 1998 crisis, Yeltsin told Chubais to agree to loans from the International Monetary Fund. Then he was appointed as head of the state-owned electricity monopoly that was struggling to get paid for the electricity it sold.
As Putin began his rise to power by moving to Moscow, Chubais cancelled the job in the Kremlin that Putin had been offered, Putin said in a series of interviews in 1999.
In recent years, Chubais continued to call for economic reform and was one of the most high-profile liberals associated with the Russian government.
Shortly after the invasion, Chubais wrote that since Gaidar’s death in 2009, an entire era had passed.
“It seems that Gaidar understood the strategic risks better than I – and I was wrong,” Chubais said.