IN OTHER WORDS : Another turn

In February 2004, President Vladimir Putin fired Mikhail Kasyanov as Russia’s prime minister. A year later, Kasyanov said Russia had taken a “wrong turn” and hinted that he might run for president in 2008. On Monday, the prosecutor-general’s office said it was investigating whether Kasyanov had illegally obtained a government-owned house when he was prime minister. At one time, we might have accepted the investigation at face value. But after all the ways Putin has quashed opposition, all we can say is here we go again. Kasyanov may have done some fishy manoeuvres to get a government dacha and help a friend get one, as the prosecutor alleges, but Kasyanov denies wrongdoing. Kasyanov, who was prime minister from 2000 to 2004, was one of the last pro-business officials as Putin’s government shifted toward the security chiefs who favour the state over business. While in office, Kasyanov publicly criticised the dismantling of Khodorkovsky’s oil company. Even if the matter never comes to trial, an inquiry allows the government to make any allegations it wants, making it difficult for Kasyanov to mount a credible presidential run. This case has the earmarks of a gross misuse of political power to signal that a challenge to the Kremlin is not advised. —The New York Times