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When Cozying Up To Russia’s Leader Doesn’t Pay

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For the past several years, William Browder has been one of Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s most prominent foreign cheerleaders. Browder manages the Hermitage Capital hedge fund, reportedly the biggest single source of western investments in Russia. He is known for his shareholder activism, repeatedly criticizing corrupt business practices in Russia, and for his steadfast support for Putin. When Putin’s crack-down on alleged oligarchs brought him under fire from American and European pundits, Browder not only stuck by Putin. He penned an essay in defense of the crackdown.
So it was a surprise when news broke last November that Browder has been banned by Russia. If being Putin’s biggest western supporter cannot win you access to Russia, well, what kind of autocrat is Putin trying to be anyway? Who exactly banned Browder? (One completely and totally unsubstantiated rumor we heard is that Browder was banned because Russian security forces were concerned that they couldn't protect him against plots against his life.)
Last week we reported that a couple of U.S. Senators were lobbying President George Bush to raise Browder’s case at the upcoming G8 meeting. Now the Observer reports that British Prime Minister Tony Blair may bring it up.
One more really odd thing. The Browder involvement in Russia spans generations. His grandmother was a Russian intellectual, and his father was the general secretary of the Communist Party of the United States and a defender of Joseph Stalin.
Blair to lobby Putin on fund manager [The Observer via the Guardian]