REUTERS/Thomas Peter

About the Series

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia became a wild east in which communist central planning was supplanted by crude, free-wheeling capitalism. A small number of people - dubbed “oligarchs” by the press - became enormously wealthy by seizing control of state assets or buying them at knock-down prices. President Vladimir Putin, who came to power unexpectedly on the last day of 1999, re-imposed stability, while stronger oil prices fueled growth.

But critics of Putin’s Russia, both inside the country and out, contend that a well-connected elite enriched and continues to enrich itself unfairly from the state.

Reuters journalists set out to investigate how that happens. In 2014, the team, led by special correspondent Stephen Grey, documented how individuals close to the president siphoned money from some of the Russian state’s biggest spenders, including publicly-owned Russian Railways and the national health system. Using both publicly-available data and confidential records, the reporters showed how significant sums of state money were passing either through intermediaries with links to Putin or into companies with secretive owners.

Continuing their investigations in 2015, the team explored an even more sensitive strand of the system: how Putin’s own family benefits.

Putin’s supporters insist the president is above the money grab that has characterized the post-Soviet era. But in a pair of  articles, the team documented the wealth and influence accrued by Putin’s younger daughter, Katerina, and her husband, Kirill Shamalov, the son of an old friend of Putin. By unearthing public records in Russia and abroad, and by tracking down sources willing to talk on a topic where most remain silent, the 2015 stories showed that Putin’s system of Comrade Capitalism has entered a new phase. Now the elite around the president are passing on power and assets to their sons and daughters.

Though each element of the inquiries was different, the end results showed a pattern: Significant state assets have found their way into the hands of people close to Putin, including a member of his own family.


Comrade Capitalism: a Reuters investigation

Reporting team: Stephen Grey, Douglas Busvine, Jason Bush, Roman Anin, Elizabeth Piper, Andrey Kuzmin, Jack Stubbs, Brian Grow, Himanshu Ojha, Maria Tsvetkova, Tom Bergin, and Sevgil Musaieva.

Additional reporting: Timothy Heritage, Gleb Stolyarov, Alexander Winning, Maria Golovnina, Jens Hack, Polina Devitt, Clare Kane, Christian Hetzner, Michele Kambas, Oleksandr Akymenko, Pavel Polityuk, Warren Strobel, Michele Martin, Maria Kiselyova, Wiktor Szary, Katerina Kravtsova, and Claude Canellas.

Data: Himanshu Ojha

Web programming: Charlie Szymanski

Graphics: Matthew Weber, Maryanne Murray, Christian Inton  and Monica Ulmanu

Design: Troy Dunkley and Catherine Tai

Picture editor: Simon Newman

Video: Julian Satterthwaite, Juris Abramenko and David Dormer

Series editors: Richard Woods and Michael Williams