Following is a fiction-based-on-fact interview with a Lyudmila Zhukova who worked as an economist in the Russian government under Vladimir Putin.

Every single fact, action, and event is 100% correct and verified by more than one source.



 The broadcast studios of TV Station ZD, Mainz, Germany

Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen was a German public-service television broadcaster based in Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, and an independent, nonprofit institution.  The station was well known for its hard-hitting documentaries that exposed fraud, anti-Semitic activity, organized crime, and political corruption, wherever it occurred.  No public figure or nation was exempt from its scrutiny.

*           *           *

Host Frauiline Sophie Schull, was approaching sixty, but still elegant and clever as a ferret in uncovering an important story.  She wore a form-fitted grey, two piece power suit on her six-foot frame, a white lace blouse and black loafers.  Her silver hair was tied back in a tight bun.  She wore very little makeup, which she considered superfluous.  Sophie would sit attentively in her host chair, ready to pounce if she did not get honest, complete answers to her inquiries.

But this night was going to very different.  Her guest, Lyudmila Zhukova wanted, no needed, to tell her story.  She felt that her life was in eminent danger and it was imperative to share all she knew about the most dangerous man the world: a criminal, a man with no soul or conscience, a conductor of terrorism on a grand scale: piracy, weapons smuggling, human trafficking, counterfeiting, production of illegal drugs, computer crime, a man in control of 6,500 nuclear weapons: Vladimir Putin.

Lyudmila was dressed simply, in long pants of a neutral color, white, button down shirt and a thin leather jacket.  She was once a handsome woman, admired for her physical beauty as well as her intellect.  But she had been on the run for two years, just one step ahead of Putin’s hired killers.  Now, Lyudmila was as skinny as a scarecrow, with eyes that darted whenever something came into her peripheral vision.

She sat nervously, constantly fidgeting in her seat, repositioning her hands and feet, as if strapped in an eclectic chair.

Finally, the light went from red to green and the cameraman counted down from ten.

“Good evening viewers, Sophie began.  “Tonight we have a very special guest.  Lyudmila Zhukova worked as an economist in the Russian government under Vladimir Putin.  She was privy to the highest levels of decision-making in that administration.  What she learned, and what she is willing to share with us, has the power to bring down Putin and the oligarchs and their mafia.  She has never divulged these facts before and is well aware that disclosing what she knows could, will, put her life in danger.

“Won’t you please welcome Lyudmila Zhukova.”

The audience applauded reservedly.  It was not an occasion where people were looking forward to an hour of entertainment; it was, rather, a woman risking her life to reveal state secrets.  Sophie straightened her notes and, seeing how nervous her guest was to proceed, said, “I’m turning over tonight’s session to you.”

“Thank you, Sophie,” Lyudmila replied.  She hesitated, gathering her thoughts that spun out of order in her mind, trying to decide where to start.

“From the very beginning Putin had no intention of establishing a democracy.  They realized–.”

“Who is ‘they’?” Sophie asked.

“All his long-time friends from St. Petersburg: people in the city administration there, KGB officers, and The Tambov Gang, which was organized in St. Petersburg in 1988 by two men from Tambov Oblast, Dar Komsky in and Vald Ledov.

“Putin believed they needed to not simply extort, and bribe, and steal and usurp, but to insure they could not be prosecuted for their crimes.  Democracy could not be allowed to flourish; only the façade of democracy would be allowed to exist.  For if the rule of law would someday establish itself, that would force Putin and his cronies to surrender power.  And once out of power the masses would do to him what they had done to the Romanovs: kill him, kill his family: wives, children, mistresses.

“Under Putin, Russia introduced a new form of modern Stalinism,” Lyudmila explained.  ‘For my friends, anything.’  ‘For my enemies, the law’.”

With every revelation, Lyudmila sped up the telling of her story, as if her corporeal time was quickly running out.

Sophie reached out and patted Lyudmila’s hand in a paternal gesture, calming the woman.

Lyudmila smiled and nodded at Sophie before beginning again.  “Putin was very interested in democracy and the rule of law, just not for Russia.  He, and the oligarchs and mafias parked their money only in the banks of countries that had strong, stable, democratic systems.

“While Putin was deeply conservative his whole life, once he held the reigns of power, he became a greedy little man, grabbing and holding every possible trapping of material wealth.”

“Could you give some examples of his excesses?” Sophie asked, feeling the need for specific examples to satisfy her audience.

“Excesses.   Ha!  That’s like saying a few Jews died in the German camps.”

“Then please enlighten us.”

“Such possessions included twenty residences, two one billion dollar palaces, eighteen planes, four yachts, several dozen exotic cars, and a multi-million dollar watch collection.  The cost of maintaining round the clock staffing of his homes costs millions of dollars a year.

“Under Putin, Russia has become a mafia state in which state structures work hand in glove with criminal institutions to their mutual benefit, with the mafia operating within guidelines established by Kremlin élites.

“Putin derives his power less from institutional legitimacy conferred by being head of state, than from the successful operation of a tribute system that obliges all participants to recognize his authority.  Basically, Putin runs a protection racket, dependent on a code of behavior that severely punishes disloyalty while allowing access to economic predation on a world-historic scale for the inner core of the elite.  Others have called it, ‘Kremlin, Inc’.  Russia’s one hundred and ten billionaires control thirty-five percent of the wealth.”

“So, the gangsters have left the highways and are now ensconced in their comfortable offices,” Sophie suggested.

“Exactly.  One of the lowest, dirtiest, most disgusting things Putin has done, and believe me, there are many, was divert state funds that were supposed to go to Siemens, a German company, for building health clinics all over Russia, instead went to building more homes, palaces, and buying more cars and yachts for Putin.

“SherBank, the sixty-sixth largest bank in the world, is partially owned by the Russian mafia.”

“Which of course means partially owned by Putin,” Sophie suggested.

“Naturally,” Lyudmila replied.  She stopped to gather her thoughts, having lost her concentration.

“Please, Lyudmila,” Sophia said.  “I am sorry for side-tracking you.”

“No, it’s fine.  Okay.  I was just going to say that Putin sells state oil to the mafia at discounted prices, who then sell it abroad for massive profits and then pay tribute to Emperor Putin.”

“And kiss the ring,” Sophia said.

Lyudmila laughed.  “Exactly.

“In 1990, there was a poor harvest due to a drought and a form of blight.  Putin was then vice-mayor of St. Petersburg.  He was authorized to trade natural resources: precious metals, timber, and the like to Germany in exchange for food.  He sold the resources and kept the money.  Thousands, maybe millions starved to death.”

“My God!” Sophie exclaimed.  “I had no idea it was that bad.  I feel naive for not having investigated that man on my own.”

“Many people are lulled into a sense of complacency due to his quiet manner and beautiful clothes.  But those of us who have been with him when the cameras are turned off and the foreign guests are gone, see the man for what he really is: a monster willing to sell the very soul of Russia, steal from people who have nothing in order to build another billion dollar residence, an animal who hoards money he could never spend in a thousand lifetimes, a degenerate who steals money allocated for hospitals, pension homes, and schools so he can buy more gold and store it in Switzerland and Luxembourg.”

“You’ve yet to mention Gorbachev,” Sophie said.  “Wasn’t he leading the country in the right direction?”

Lyudmila reached out for her water glass and took a sip.  So shaky was her hand that she spilled as much as she drank.  She nodded for herself before speaking.  “We had hope once,” she said in a reflective tone of voice.  “Mikhail was opening up the country, seeking peace with the West, pressing for nuclear disarmament, ensuring the rule of law.

“If it was not for Putin, Glasnost would have succeeded,” Lyudmila assured.  “One hundred and fifty million people would have been lifted out of poverty, gotten health care, seen their children educated, had the right to free speech and assembly.  Money would have been available for social programs, food assistance for the destitute, money for infrastructure.  Russia would have been lifted out of the 18th century and into the 21st.

“What happened at that moment?” Sophie asked.

“Putin subverted money that was to pay for social programs, insuring that Gorbachev and his glasnost would fail.  Russians would not be free, would not be safe from extortion, would not be able to get health care, better pensions, good schools, better roads, would not be able to vote for their choice of candidate, would not be able to speak freely or congregate to demand their rights be protected, not stolen from them.  They–.”

“They?” Sophie repeated.

“Putin, his friends from St, Petersburg, the oligarchs and the mafia.  People were starving, but those monsters did not have one ounce of empathy or a single tear to shed for the Russian people who live in third-world conditions.

“They stole it!” Lyudmila said in a voice one decibel less than a scream.

It caused Sophie to sit back in her chair, so startled was she.

Lyudmila’s whole body shook with outrage, as if she stepped on a downed power line while standing in a puddle of water.  Yet she would not relent.

“Then we have the homeless children.  Fifty thousand just on the streets of Moscow.  Runaways as young as eight who escaped from homes simmering with alcoholic rage.   Dinners of thin soup when there was anything at all.  Physical abuse, which some considered a blessing compared to the sexual abuse others endured.  On the streets they freeze in the winter, bake in the summer.  They squat in abandoned buildings, rifle through trash for leftovers set out by the restaurants, steal money out of the collection baskets at church, incurring the wrath of the church and God, forgoing the right to ask for absolution.  Pick-pock drunks who stumble out of the fancy clubs in the early morning hours after a night of debauchery.  Having to constantly move to escape the police who would take them to the shelters where the pedophiles have their choice of hundreds of children.”

Lyudmila gripped the arms of the chair to steady herself.  “Putin stole the future of Russia, stole the hopes and dreams of the people.  Now thirty-five years have gone by since Glasnost and the Russian people live in poverty, in fear and without hope.”

Sophie could see how upset Lyudmila was and so suggested they take a break.

Lyudmila shook her head, insisting they go on.

“Is it true that Putin installed a member of the Russian mafia in charge of stopping money laundering?” Sophie asked.

“Yes, but in the grand scale of things, that like saying Putin took a lollipop from a store when in fact he exhorted all the money from the business, burnt down the building and killed the owner.”

“You’re describing a monster,” Sophie said.

Lyudmila laughed heartily.  “No single word can describe this man.  He cannot be compared to the dictators or fascists of today.  One would have to go back in the past and study the evil that existed centuries ago.  Like Talat Pasha, the grand vizier of the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, who supervised the torture, burning and killing  of one and a half million Armenians.

“Elizabeth Bathory, a countess who lived in the Carpathian Mountains, was the inspiration for Dracula and the most prolific serial killer in history.  She was responsible for the killing of 650 girls; many were tortured for weeks. They were forced to eat their own flesh.  She sometimes drank the blood of the girls she stabbed with long, poker-hot needles.

“Leopold II of Belgium ruled the Congo from 1885 to 1908.  His men tortured, maimed, and slaughtered millions of Congolese.  Hundreds of thousands of natives had their hands, legs, feet, arms, heads, ears, and noses cut off.  They slaughtered hundreds of thousands of children.  He killed ten million indigenous people; half the Congo’s population.”

“And you’re comparing Putin to these people?”  Sophie was repulsed, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Yes!  And worse still!”

“Can you give us some idea of the activities Putin is currently involved in?” Sophie asked.

Lyudmila leaned forward to grab her water and take a sip.  Her hand began shaking so bad, she had to set the glass back down.

Sophie moved closer and whispered, “Are you sure you don’t want to take a break?”

Lyudmila shook her head resolutely.  “There may not be another time.”

Sophie touched Lyudmila’s arm, nodded her head and smiled empathetically.

“Investigators who specialized in organized crime showed that Putin was involved in bank fraud, fictitious real estate transactions, buying and reselling stolen cars, illegal export of non-ferrous metals, black market transactions relating to humanitarian aid, production and trafficking in fake hard liquor, arms sales and counterfeit money, manufacture and distribution of controlled drugs.

“Putin arranged for the purchase of badly needed medical equipment for city hospitals.  He gave out no-bid contracts to his friends.  The cost of the building projects were seven times as much as medical equipment in other countries.”

“Oh, dear,” Sophie said, placing her hand over her mouth as if ill.  “I think I see now.”

“No, you don’t see.  Not yet!” she said loud enough to force Sophie back in her seat.  Lyudmila saw that her emotions got the best of her.  “I am sorry.  It is just that I am worn out from my efforts to gather information and from staying a step ahead of the FSB and SVR.”

Sophie smiled empathetically.  “I understand; and our audience understands.  Now please go on.”

“When Putin built his palace, he needed more land.  So his henchmen threaten the people who lived next door.  When they refuse to sell, he  burns down their homes, sometimes with them in it.

“In 2013, Putin announced that $14 billion U.S. would be invested in Russian railroads.  To pay for this, Putin raided the Russian pension fund.  He then raised the pension age for Russians from 50 to 55.

“Do you know what the average lifespan of a Russian man is?” Lyudmila asked.

“No.  I’m sorry; I don’t,” Sophie admitted.

“It is fifty-nine years.  So by taking away five years of pension, Putin cut in half the money the state must pay out.

“Small-minded Putin even plagiarized large sections of his speeches during the 2000, 2004 and 2012 presidential campaigns.  No theft is too small for this small man.

“Putin visited Finland seventy times during his five years as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg.  According to Finnish authorities, Putin met with organized crime figures.

“When foreign companies invest in Russia, Putin waits until they finish building their hotels or factories, or hospitals or offices then sends in his ‘Tax police’ who present them with bills larger than their investment, forcing them out and turning over the project to his friends.

“Putin turned over ownership of the St. Petersburg Port to the Tambov crime group.”

“Can you go back to St. Petersburg where Putin started out?” Sophie asked.

“Yes,” Lyudmila replied.  “Crime flourished under Putin in St. Petersburg.  Immediately, they, oh, I am sorry, Putin, those in the St. Petersburg’s mayor’s office and the mafias, wanted to expand their operations to other cities in Russia.  To do that, they planned a coup d’état in 1991, but Boris Yeltsin, standing on a tank, stopped the coup.  However, that only set Putin back a few years, as he immediately began planning to take control of the entire government through any means at his disposal.”

“With Gorbachev still in power, and then Yeltsin, why was Putin not persecuted?” Sophia asked

“All the crimes Putin committed were investigated by authorities, but once Putin arrived in Moscow as head of the KGB, the cases were dropped.

“Putin ripped the heart out of Russia when he sold off pieces of Russian infrastructure to the oligarchs.  Assets worth billions of dollars were sold to his friends for pennies on the dollar.

“The only conclusion possible to reach is that Putin moved up from KGB in Dresden, Germany during the cold war, to the assistant Mayor of St. Petersburg, to head of KGB in Russia to vice-president of Russia to president because he was the biggest thief, a thief who showed other thieves how they could steal more.

“Putin formed alliances with the Tambov and Malyshev mafia groups to run casinos under a special permit, issued of course by Putin.

“When interviewed by a journalist, the head of the Malsyhev mafia, and a close associate of Putin’s, was asked if he was ever convicted of a crime.  He said, ‘Prosecuted, not convicted,’ while, in fact, he had served two sentences for murder.  These were Putin’s personal friends and allies.

“Foreign companies stopped investing in Russia.  In any other country, there would be graft, kickbacks to those in positions of power would take a share of the profits.  But what Putin and the mafia did was demand all, one hundred percent of the project, leaving nothing for the investors or the people of Russia .  No hotels, no railroads, no bridges, no hospitals, no clinics have been built for decades.

“Putin visited Hollywood and met with the stars.  They took him in as one of their own.  They noted his smile and ten thousand dollar suit and manicured nails and believed he was a human being, not a man who had tortured, imprisoned and killed thousands of people, some for the smallest slight.

“That visit raised millions for cancer.  Putin and his allies kept all the money. Only after some mothers of sick children complained of fraud, was ‘some’ of the money distributed.

“People starving, people dying of cancer and Putin’s answer was to steal all the money he could and let people suffer and die.”

“There are rumors that Putin is connected to the drug cartels,” Sophie suggested.

“Putin was a member of the board of St. Petersburg Holding Co. that laundered money for the Cali drug cartel and also for the Russian mafia.  He is still laundering money, just using a different front organization.

“Putin has conducted business with all three mafia families.  People who murder, engage in stock manipulation, Ponzi schemes, sucking the life savings out of the people’s pockets, extort, launder money for the drug cartels and offer murder for hire.

“Bats, vampires, crows, hyenas, snakes, nocturnal creatures,” Lyudmila said.

Sophie did not get the connection to their conversation.  “Excuse me?”

“An apt description of Putin and his cronies.”

Sophie nodded her head.  “Yes, I think I can see that now.”

“Essentially, Putin helped the mafia crime families become legitimate, to participate in the raping of Russia and invest the money in enterprises they had total control over.

“Putin took money from Russia and built a hotel in Spain to be used by veterans and their families.  He then turned the hotel over to a corporation he controlled, and only Putin’s friends and business associates ever stayed at the hotel

“Putin sent the gold reserves of St. Petersburg to Switzerland, where it was melted down and the funds used to further Putin’s and his FSB friends’ projects.

“When Putin was in St. Petersburg, he eliminated the key agencies that investigated high-level economic crimes.

“One of Putin’s associates, Vladimiririr Rushaylo said, ‘You should not confuse corruption with bribe taking’.

“Putin’s most horrific plan was to create a new party in the summer of 1999 and then act to increase its popularity,” Lyudmila went on.  “So Putin got together his team of FSB agents and planned a series of bombings in Russia.  Putin blamed it on the Chechens and retaliated with overwhelming force against those innocent people and made himself a hero.  He became God’s winged avenger.

“He had the FSB place bombs in apartment complexes, churches, meeting halls.  Hundreds died for no reason other than to insure Putin’s political position and make possible his plans to take control of the entire country.

“The targets for the five bombs were one, Okhotnyy Ryad underground mall, killing one person.  Two, Buynaksk, Dagestan, a car bomb at an apartment building housing Russian border guards, killing 64.  Three, Gur’yanov Street, a bomb placed in the ground floor of an apartment building, killed 100 sleeping residents.  Four, Kashirskoye Street, a bomb planted in the basement of an apartment house, killing 118 sleeping residents.  Five, the Russian city of Volgodonsk, a truck bomb outside an apartment house, killing 18 sleeping residents.

“Total: 301 killed and almost 2,000 injured.”

“And didn’t the newspapers go along with the theory it was Chechens?” Sophie asked.

“Yes, the newspapers and TV stations played the tragedies over and over, demanding a response, blaming Chechen separatists,” Lyudmila replied.  “But the media was not an independent body.  There were threats, intimidation.  A journalist, Alekksandr Zhilin, wrote, “May God grant the federal troops victory over the Chechen bomber so that it won’t be necessary for Putin to conduct another series of blasts in Moscow and declare an emergency and call for action against Chechnya.  Since Putin’s approval ratings are now high enough to win the coming elections’.”

“In a meeting of the Duma on Septembers 13, 1999, Speaker Gennadiy Seleznyov announced, ‘We have just received news that a residential building in Volgodonsk was blown up last night.’  In fact, the bombing was still three days away.

“In a speech given the day before he was named acting president, Putin had the audacity to say, ‘I will reset the state’s personnel policy by putting the best professionals in place to launch a more aggressive fight against both crime and corruption.’  In fact, he put his FSB friends and thieving oligarchs in charge of the hen house, who immediately started a program of corruption that siphoned every dime out of the private sector and gave it to Putin and his cronies.

“Putin’s sick, twisted justifications went on. ‘The Constitution must be respected, especially civil and human rights.’  This while taking control of all media and the internet.

“He hides behind an endless stream of words, concocting stories, contriving circumstances, accusing the innocent, praising the guilty.

“Privately, Putin said, ‘I sought the presidency so I would no longer be controlled like I was in the KGB’.

“As for those oligarchs who refused to cooperate, he said, ‘Persistent opposition outlets should be driven into bankruptcy.’

“Natalya Gevorkyan, who held a senior position in Putin’s government, left after Putin expressed his vision.  She said, ‘I realized how Putin was going to rule.  That is how his fucking brain works.  I knew this was how he saw the world, through his narrow, paranoid KGB vision, just the way he had been taught in KGB school: that the country is as great as the fear it generates.  And the media should be loyal.’

“He threatened to blackmail and imprison journalists, and bring charges against their families, if they did not support the policies of his new government.  And he continues to do so.

“He said that TV news should, in regards to himself, smell like holy oil and incense sprinkled all over the face of the Earth.

“Further, he said, ‘Russian leaders need private money.  And that money would come from the oligarchs who will compensate the county’s leaders, through effective taxation, for the right to continue in business.’

“Shares from the largest corporation disappeared off the books and into the pockets of Putin and his cronies.  For just one company, GasTran, shares worth $20 billion disappeared into the little man’s pockets.”

“Please tell us what you know about the Kursk accident,” Sophie said, moving the interview along when she saw Lyudmila was slowing down, getting weaker from the deprivations she had experienced.

“The true nature of this sub-human can be seen in the Kursk incident.  An experimental sub went down with all hands while Putin was on vacation in Sochi.  He did not interrupt his vacation or coordinate the task of trying to rescue the vessel.  Other countries willing, and anxious, to help with the rescue, were left waiting, with no word from Putin to proceed.  SOS messages were sent by the crew tapping on the hull of the ship, telling of their situation and begging for help.  They lived for hours, maybe days while Putin basked in the sun.

“Newspapers were told to not place pictures of the wives and sisters of the lost seaman, but to put pictures of Putin on the beach with no shirt on.”

“I understand why you have difficulty finding the right words to describe this man,” Sophie said.

“Man?  That would be using the term very loosely,” Lyudmila said, then laughed morbidly.  “He is a subhuman; something that crawled out of a sewer and slithered onto land.”

“How did the 2008 financial crisis affect Russia?” Sophie asked.

“After the financial crisis, the amount of money for Putin’ special projects shrunk.  All available funds, from corruption, bribery and theft, were diverted to ‘Project South’ – Putin’s palace,” Lyudmila replied.  Her hand gestures, once animated, were now feeble.   The energy had left her body, causing her to collapse like the air escaping a blow up doll.  Yet still she persisted on the strength of will alone.  “The project included upgrading roads and bridges, installation of high voltage power lines and gas lines.  Installation of secure communications, three helipads, a marina, a private beach, summer house, guest and servant quarters, a winter theater, amphitheater and extensive recreational facilities and a vineyard.

“When the money was diverted to Project South, thousands of workers in Russian factories building German designed modular units for heath clinics were put out of work.

“Under Putin, rule #1 was that law was imposed on those who broke internal Kremlin policy.  Rule #2, anyone abiding by the internal laws was guaranteed immunity from the law’,” Lyudmila explained.

“He is a master manipulator of the media, is he not?’ Sophia asked.

“Under Putin, an information war was started against the opposition and against the media.  There are a dozen ways he controls the flow of news.  From sending in teams of tax people to audit the company, to threats against family members, to attacks by hooligans throwing paint on the building and on people.  Homes are broken into, cars vandalized.  The point is, Putin had no boundaries.

“At Putin’s behest, Viktor Zolotov, head of Putin’s presidential guard, was asked to create a list of politicians and influential Muscovites they would need to kill in order to give Putin unchecked power.  After Zolotov finished the list, he said, ‘There are too many.  It’s too many to kill.  Even for us.’

“Because of low wages in Russia, and inability to pay for quality health care, the birth rate has fallen from 2.1 births per thousand to 1.7 per thousand.  That is 20% below replacement.  Poor and non-existent health care has led to 500% more deaths from cardiovascular disease among women compared to Europe.

“More women die annually from domestic violence than all the soldiers the USSR lost in the entire Afghan War.

“According to the WHO, life expectancy for a fifteen-year-old male in Russia is three years lower than in Haiti.”

“Can you speak for a moment about sex trafficking?” Sophie asked.

“I could speak for years about trafficking.  Millions of Russian girls have been lost to the sex trade.  Russia’s compliance with international conventions on sex trafficking is the lowest in the world.  For women going into the sex trade, it is considered an accepted profession.  The choice for Russian women is to be beaten by their husbands or beaten by their Johns.  At least the Johns pay for the privilege.  Russia committed to building its first women’s shelter, but as of 2103, it still had not opened.”

“I am so sorry to hear that, but maybe this interview will draw more attention to the problem.”


“What is the situation for health care in Russia?” Sophie asked.

“Putin raided the funds set aside for health care, neonatal care, cancer treatment, HIV, tuberculosis and emergency treatment in order to complete the building of his palaces.  Women dying of cancer, their children dying of cancer, went to the Kremlin in their wheelchairs so Putin could see their emaciated bodies, the bandages on their heads.”

“And Putin…?” Sophie prodded.

“Did nothing…except send his goon squad to disperse them.”

“We’re running out of time, Lyudmila.  Do you have a few closing remarks for us?” Sophie asked.

“Yes.  Financial crimes.  When Russia and Germany built the Nordstrom One pipeline, the cost on the German side was $2.1 million per kilometer and $5.8 million per kilometer on the Russian side.  More than half the $50 billion spent on the Sochi Olympics disappeared into the pockets of Putin crones.

“The Rotenberg Brothers received 15% of all the contracts for the Olympics.   Those contracts increased their personal wealth by $25 billion while the state cut health care spending by 8.7% in 2013, and 17.8% in 2015.”

The cameraman signaled ten seconds.  “And in conclusion…,” Sophie asked.

“Millions are moving out of Russia, but Putin doesn’t care because the economy does not rely on manufacturing or services or finance.  Only gas and oil sales matter in Putin’s world.  But in the past, every country that relied on a single product or service eventually crashed.  I pray I may see this in my lifetime but I feel my time is short.”

“Short for you, or short for Russia?” Sophie asked.

“Police have to meet quotas of finding crime, or lose their jobs; maybe even find themselves being arrested.  This leads them to find nonexistent crimes.

“When a private company is taken over, it does not become a state company, it becomes a Putin and friends company.

“The possibility of a single man, or company in a vital industry – as is the case in the Russian gas and oil industry – is that such a person could upset the availability of such a product and impact the world’s economy.

“When a $200 billion stimulus package was issued to stabilize the ruble, instead, the money was taken out of the country.

“A new system of government in Russia has emerged, one that has reverted back to Feudalism, the merging of money and political power and the domination of the economy by a few major corporations.

“It is stable western governments that allow the oligarchs to steal money from the people and the country and invest it safely in real estate and other forms of wealth.

“Soviet military action is a front for the take over or control of a captive state’s assets, specifically gas and oil, which is then divided up between the general and the mafia.  This has happened in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.

“The world should be aware of this because Putin is a disease that is spreading beyond Russia and infecting the world.

“Russia, under Putin, is a parasite, sucking the life out of his own country and also the life and assets of a captured country.  It is similar to Marburg or Ebola where the parasite enters the host and then begins to turn the host into itself.

“The new prime minister of a central Asian country came to visit Putin.  After the cameras were turned off, Putin changed from a compatriot, to a fiend, a blood-sucking, night-crawling, vampire who said, ‘Listen here, I decide everything.  Don’t forget it.’

The cameraman signaled sixty seconds.

Lyudmila saw it and hurried to finish.  “For Putin, life and business is a zero sum game.  He wins, you lose.  He and his cronies are dedicated to a life of looting without consequence.

“Thank you, Lyudmila, for your bravery and your information,” Sophie said.  “Millions will see this interview and millions more will be able to view it on YouTube.  You have done your country a great service.”

The lights went down and the cameras turned off.

Lyudmila reached out, took Sophie’s hand and drew her in.  With her other hand, she gave Sophia a thick file.  “Please take this.  It documents everything I have spoken about.  You must get it into the hands of an honest prosecutor.”  Pointing to the file, she added, “My life’s work is represented by those papers.”  Lyudmila’s voice sank; she had reached her wall.   She had nothing left to share, nothing left to give.

“Of course we will,” Sophia assured, touching her hand to the file like she was being sworn in with a bible in court.  Your efforts will not be in vain.”

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