"Diver with chocolate tan": secrets of Alexey Ulyukaev’s career  

"Diver with chocolate tan": secrets of Alexey Ulyukaev’s career
Alexey Ulyukaev in court Photo: Dmitry Korotayev / Kommersant

Yuri Luzhkov: "I’ve got him pegged in the end of 90s".

Among the Russian Ministers, Alexey Ulyukaev has always stood out with his chocolate tan and a desire to keep fit. Even exhausting business trips and long flights could not make him give up jogging. "That's what a young wife does to a man!" – joked his colleagues, but Ulyukaev has never got offended. He was always famous by his non-confrontational disposition. And even the nickname "the diver", which he got after repeated attempts to find the bottom of the fall of the domestic economy, he perceived with humor. "Diver is a very honorable profession", the Minister said in order to laugh off attacks from the media and MPs.

Alexey Ulyukaev belongs to the young reformers team, which stood at the origins of Russian reforms in the early 90s. His path to the economy, he began, as expected, with the Economic Faculty of Moscow State University, which he managed to enter with the second shot, having worked a year as a laboratory assistant at the institute, where his father was a professor. Ulyukaev studied well, was actively engaged in public work, and willingly went to the construction crews.


The future Minister needed pocket money to satisfy the "one, but ardent passion" – one to poetry. Since good books, especially the new ones were impossible to get on free sales, the student Ulyukaev went to popular swap meets, where he spent all his honestly earned 50 rubles, and also to the library. There, he, according to his own memoirs, would copy his favorite poems to his 96 sheet notebooks. By the time of graduation, he has had accumulated a few dozen of them. It is noteworthy that in addition to Pasternak, Mandelstam and Brodsky, the young student's preferences included such little-known poets of the late XIX – early XX century, such as Konstantin Fofanov. Then, in the university, Ulyukaev took his own steps towards literature, published several poems in the magazine called Student Meridian.

However, after finishing a postgraduate program and acquaintance with Anatoly Chubais and Egor Gaidar his poetry enthusiasm fell by the wayside. The graduate was seriously interested in popular Western economic theories and their applicability in the Soviet Union, the economy of which, as it was already clear, needed serious reforms.

In the mid-80s, Alexey Ulyukaev was a member of the economic seminars called Zmeinaya Gorka (Snake Hill), organized by Chubais and Gaidar. And from 1987 to 1988, participated in the meetings of the clubs Perestroika and Democratic Perestroika, where they discussed non-Soviet methods of solving economic problems. Even then, Gaidar called Ulyukaev one of the most advanced of his pupils and the brilliant theoretician.

In 1991, the young economist joined the government team as Egor Gaidar’s assistant, from 1992 to 1993, he led a group of economic advisers, on whose conscience, as it is now commonly cited, the criminal privatization and the "shock therapy". In 1994, after his boss, Ulyukaev went to the Institute of Economy in Transition (IEPP).

With such a biography is not difficult to guess the Minister’s party affiliation: in 1995-1997 he headed the Moscow branch of the Democratic Choice of Russia, in 1999, he ran for the State Duma on the list of the Union of Right Forces, as well as from the Chertanovskaya single-seat constituency in Moscow. However, in both cases he failed. The Union did not get enough votes, and in a single-mandate constituency, a protege of then-Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov won.

Luzhkov himself told MK that he got Ulyukaev pegged, when the latter, for three years (1996-1998), has held the Chair of the Deputy of the Moscow City Council, representing the districts Zyuzino, Kotlovka, Cheryomushki, and Obruchevsky. "He aspired to the position of the budget committee chairman. In this connection, I met with him, listened to his position on the key economic issues and realized that the man sticking to the monetarist philosophy and referring to the real sector of the economy disparagingly, does not meet the objectives of the Moscow Government and can not hold such a post. I expressed my opinion to the leadership of the Duma, and it was taken into account", Luzhkov said.

According to the former Mayor, he later was surprised by Ulyukaev’s career at the federal level. In 2000, by Anatoly Chubais’ behest, he became the Deputy Minister of Finance (Alexey Kudrin) in the Government of Mikhail Kasyanov. In 2004, after the appointment of Mikhail Fradkov as the Prime-Minister, he moved to the post of the first Deputy Chairman of the Russian Central Bank. In 2013, Ulyukaev was regarded as one of the most likely candidates for the post of the Head of the Central Bank, but the choice finally fell on Elvira Nabiullina. According to MK, ​​it was the decision of Vladimir Putin, who, as sources indicate, in principle, does not like the young reformers. In June 2013, Alexey Ulyukaev was appointed as the Minister of Economic Development instead of Andrey Belousov, who took job at the Kremlin. "Under him, it was not the Ministry of Economic Development but the Ministry of Economic Destruction", complains Luzhkov. The ex-Mayor of Moscow does not comment on Ulyukayev’s arrest on suspicion of taking bribes. "But if he actually did it, that's madness!" – he said.

It is noteworthy that the long-term associates of the Ministers see the situation in the same way. "For those who have known Alexey Ulyukaev for more than 30 years, what happened is shock", Anatoly Chubais wrote on his page on the social network, urging both sides to wait for an explanation. "One side says that Ulyukaev threatened Rosneft and extorted a bribe (probably I ceased to understand something in this world). But the other one hasn’t said anything at all”, he pointed out. Alexander Shokhin, the Head of RSPP, speaks in defence of the Minister even more empathically. "A man with great experience in Russian politics is not in his right mind to extort money from the head of Rosneft for the already completed transaction. In such a case, Alexey Valentinovich had to be de arrested not by the Investigative Committee, but by the Kashchenko doctors", he said.

Officials familiar with Ulyukaev, in turn, said that the Minister has recently behaved in perfectly usual way – not nervous, not fussed. Last week, he traveled to Italy and Austria, to feel out their positions with regard to the lifting of sanctions from Russia. On Wednesday, the Head of the Ministry of Economic Development was supposed to fly to Peru to participate in the ministerial meeting, held in the framework of the summit of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) preceding the leaders’ meeting (on November 19-20, in activities of the Forum, Vladimir Putin is expected to participate). In addition, Ulyukayev is involved in preparing a package of agreements with Japan, which is expected to be signed during the Russian President's visit to Tokyo in mid-December, as well as the negotiations on the restoration of full cooperation with Turkey. Apparently, his deputies will now be engaged in this work.

Unlike other ministers, Ulyukaev never refused to talk to the press. In particular, he twice participated in Vladimir Pozner’s TV-show, from participation in which the Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and the Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs Olga Golodets have consistently refused. In particular, Ulyukaev on the show admitted that in women above all, he appreciates the sex appeal and attractiveness, but in men – kindness and decency. On a desert island, he would take with him: of the books - Robinson Crusoe, of the movies - My Friend Ivan Lapshin. To write poems again the Minister began in 2011 ("After thirty years of silence, it suddenly burst out", he explained) and to date he has published two collections. Around the same time, Ulyukaev became interested in the Internet poetry and is now actively communicating with authors, published on the net, highlighting the names like Andrey Permyakov, Oleg Gorshkov and Dmitry Melnikov. This circle of communication the Minister, most likely, will be able to save, if he remains under house arrest.



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