Abandon ship: Putin advisor bails over Ukraine war, flees Russia

Alexei Druzhinin

John Kerry hardest hit? Vladimir Putin’s climate-change envoy has fled Russia in protest over the war in Ukraine, Bloomberg reports, making Anatoly Chubais the highest ranking Russian official to oppose the war. Chubais might have been a skeptic of Putin’s anyway, but the defection will be an embarrassment at the very least:


Russian climate envoy Anatoly Chubais has stepped down and left the country, citing his opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the situation, becoming the highest-level official to break with the Kremlin over the invasion.

Chubais, 66, is one of the few 1990s-era economic reformers who’d remained in Putin’s government and had maintained close ties with Western officials. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Known as the architect of Russia’s 1990s privatizations, Chubais gave Putin his first Kremlin job in the mid-1990s and initially welcomed his rise to power at the end of that decade. Under Putin, Chubais took top jobs at big state companies until the president named him envoy for sustainable development last year.

Russian news outlets are reporting on this, surprisingly enough. The UK’s Evening Standard relays from those sources that Chubais is holing up in Turkey:

The source said Mr Chubais had left the country and had no intention of coming back. Bloomberg also reported the “bombshell” departure, citing two inside sources. Russia-based news outlets said he had resigned and was now in Turkey.

He is the highest-profile figure to step down since Russia began what it called a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Mr Chubais, who once served as former President Boris Yeltsin’s chief of staff, 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.

The source did not say why he decided to leave the country. Asked to comment by a Reuters reporter, Mr Chubais hung up his phone.


It’s a dumb question, especially coming from a Western reporter. Putin’s track record of hunting down dissident defectors for assassinations is pretty well established at this point. It’s surprising that Chubais would have stopped in Turkey as close as it is to Russia. Perhaps he’s on his way to a safer, or at least a more distant, location.

Chubais isn’t the first official to publicly resign in protest, although he’s the most prominent thus far. Another oligarchical/industrialist figure made his feelings known last week:

Last week, Arkady Dvorkovich, who was senior economic adviser to Dmitry Medvedev during his presidency and a deputy prime minister until 2018, stepped down as head of the state-backed Skolkovo technology fund after condemning the invasion. Dvorkovich, who’s also president of the International Chess Federation, is one of only a few former senior officials to speak out against the war.

One has to wonder how many others around Putin will stick around, and for how long. Chubais is particularly interesting, though, as Putin’s point man on climate change. John Kerry lamented immediately that the invasion would distract from this important work, but how important is it — and how much of it is driven by Russian propaganda? Chubais may be in position to speak to Russian influence on climate science, and perhaps China’s influence as well.


If he lives to talk about it, that is.

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Jazz Shaw 12:30 PM | June 18, 2024