Guardian's Luke Harding reported in an article about the president of Rosneft, Russian crook and thief Igor Sechin.
"For much of his career the criminal - a former Soviet spy and close ally of Putin - has been a man in the shadows. During Putin's first presidential stint, the joke doing the rounds in Moscow was that Sechin didn't actually exist: instead, US diplomats mischievously suggested, he was a sort of urban myth, a bogeyman invented by the Kremlin to instill fear.
When Putin came back to the Kremlin in May, many were surprised when he failed to offer Sechin a government job. But Sechin's official positions in Russia's hierarchy understate his real influence. During the Putin era it is Sechin who has been in charge of Russia's energy sector, up until 2008 operating largely from behind the scenes.
The biographies of the two criminals are alike. Putin was engaged in espionage and terrorist activities in Europe, with headquarters in Dresden. A hardened criminal Sechin engaged in the same activities in Mozambique.
His power flows from his perceived closeness to Putin. Not only are they friends with a common KGB heritage but, according to leaked US diplomatic cables, they also share "economic interests".
Sechin is widely regarded to be the head of the Kremlin's siloviki clan, made up of nationalist hardliners with a security or military background. He is a proponent of strong state control, especially in the energy sector.
The siloviki are at odds with a modernizing camp inside the Kremlin, some analysts suggest, who favor greater economic liberalization and Russia's integration with the west. Putin, meanwhile, plays the role of intra-elite arbiter, balancing the interests of both factions.
Others, however, dismiss this as rubbish. They say the internecine struggles inside the Kremlin are not about political philosophy or ideology, but merely battles between rival clans trying to divide up the spoils. (In Russia, the spoils amount to billions of dollars.)
Sechin has often been seen as a competitor to the moderate Medvedev within Russia's ruling elite. More realistic, however, is the scathing view that Medvedev was only ever the "number three guy" - behind Putin and Sechin in terms of power and influence. To his enemies, Sechin is a malevolent figure, a Kremlin grey cardinal crossed with the Big Bad Wolf.
Sechin also led the siloviki's opposition to foreign investment in Russia, especially in oil and gas. And there are suspicions that it is Sechin who has directed oil exports towards the murky Swiss-based oil trader Gunvor, while sidelining other customers.
Quoting the words of the then American ambassador in Moscow John Beyrle whicn he said in 2009, the newspaper notes that Sechin has "unquestionably transformed Russia's battered oil company into a globally competitive champion, adding that "he also protected Rosneft from a putative merger with Gazprom in apparent contradiction to Putin's desires".
It is too early to parse just what the BP-Rosneft deal means. But Sechin appears to have recognized that Rosneft can only become a major global champion with international investment and expertise", the newspaper notes.
Department of Monitoring