Putin Economic Advisor Andrei Illarionov Resigns

Andrei Illarionov, a vocal proponent of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, has resigned as Putin’s chief economic advisor:

MOSCOW – An outspoken economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin who has become increasingly critical of a return to inefficient state control of the economy has offered his resignation, complaining that he was no longer able to speak his mind, Russian news agencies reported Tuesday.
Andrei Illarionov, the lone dissenter in a Kremlin dominated by Putin’s fellow KGB veterans, was stripped of his duties as envoy to the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations earlier this year. However, he has remained Putin’s economic adviser.
Last week he charged that political freedom has steadily declined and said that government-controlled corporations have stifled competition and ignored public interests.
“I considered it important to remain here at this post as long as I had the possibility to do something, including speaking out,” the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Illarionov as saying.
“Until recently, no one put any restrictions on me expressing my point of view. Now the situation has changed,” he added.
Illarionov, 44, a free-market economist who worked in the Russian government in the early 1990s, was appointed an adviser to Putin in 2000.
But he increasingly fell out of favor after he became a vocal critic of moves to restore state control over the strategic energy sector. In particular, he lambasted the effective nationalization of the Yukos oil empire of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2004 as the “swindle of the year.”
Illarionov said he had a number of reasons for his decision to resign but that his main concern was the development of an increasingly state-controlled economy, with major public companies run by self-interested bureaucrats.
“Six years ago when I came to this post I dedicated my work to increasing economic freedoms in Russia. Six years on, the situation has changed radically,” he said.
“This is a state model with the participation of state corporations, which although they are public in name and status, are managed above all for their own personal interests,” said Illarionov.
Last week, Russia’s biggest carmaker, Avtovaz, elected a new board with top managers representing the state, cementing control of a key company after parallel moves to increase the state’s hold on the energy sector.
Under Putin, Russia has moved to snap up chunks of the strategically important oil sector and the state now controls around 30 percent of the national oil industry.
In December 2004, the biggest oil fields of the embattled Yukos oil giant â?? once Russia’s No. 1 producer â?? were transferred to the state to reclaim billions in disputed tax bills, and this year, the giant gas monopoly Gazprom bought the privately held OAO Sibneft oil company.
Illarionov said last week that after state-owned Rosneft took over OAO Yukos’ main subsidiary, Yuganskneftegaz, the unit’s revenues dropped and costs soared.

Earlier coverage of this subject at the Atlasphere includes the following:

Putin Advisor Illarionov Profiled in WSJ (May 12, 2005)
Putin Demotes Economic Advisor Andrei Illarionov (May 1, 2005)
Spreading Ayn Rand in Russia (April 1, 2005)

I would love to know how to get in touch with Illarionov for an interview. If you have any suggestions, please contact me.
UPDATE: More coverage on this topic is available from AFP.