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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Putin's Quiet Coup D'etat

The Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor reports:

Gazeta reported on May 5 that it had learned the structure and personnel make-up of the cabinet that Vladimir Putin will head as prime minister starting on May 8, the day after Dmitry Medvedev is inaugurated as president. According to the paper, outgoing Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov will remain in the cabinet as first deputy prime minister overseeing the “control and supervisory agencies.” Most of the current cabinet ministers will remain in their jobs, while Putin will have eleven deputies, as did Viktor Chernomyrdin during his tenure as prime minister. The main “intrigue,” the paper wrote, involves who will occupy the position of deputy prime minister overseeing the “power bloc.”

Still, Gazeta said that “the very appearance” of a deputy prime minister overseeing the “power bloc” simply confirms that “the center for making all important decisions, despite the protestations of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, is being transferred from the Kremlin to the White House.” Indeed, Gazeta noted that in one of his final press conferences as president, Putin said that he was leaving everything in the Kremlin to his successor except for the fountain pen that Boris Yeltsin used to sign his most important decrees and that he bequeathed to Putin on December 31, 1999, the day Yeltsin left office. “Perhaps that pen contains the sacred secret of Kremlin power,” the paper wrote. “In any case, together with that artifact, Putin … is taking possession of all command powers and levers of control over all key leaders, from the governors to the heads of the special services.”

According to Gazeta, Prime Minister Putin will use the resources of the Regional Development Ministry, headed by Dmitry Kozak, to control the governors; and Kozak will become a deputy prime minister. Zubkov, in his role as first deputy prime minister, will not only be in charge of the government’s “operational status” but will also have the role of “chief inspector” over how budgetary funds are used, putting him above the watchdog Audit Chamber and the Federal Service for Financial-Budgetary Supervision.

Gazeta wrote that Igor Sechin, the current deputy Kremlin chief-of-staff who is widely scene as the de facto leader of a faction of hardliner siloviki, will also become a deputy prime minister and could end up replacing Naryshkin as head of the government apparatus, with Naryshkin “shifted in another direction.” Sechin could also wind up doubling as head of the prime minister’s secretariat. “Vladimir Putin loves to appoint people close to him to compound positions in order to award them with a high status,” Gazeta wrote, noting that simply appointing Sechin as head of the prime ministerial secretariat, whose tasks involve “circulation of documents and red tape,” would be an “obvious insult.”

Putin’s current press secretary, Aleksei Gromov, may be appointed deputy prime minister in charge of education, culture and the media, Gazeta wrote, adding that the job of press secretary for the new prime minister would go to Gromov’s current first deputy, Dmitry Peskov.

A subject of “special intrigue” is the fate of First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, Gazeta wrote, noting that he might become secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council if the decision is made to turn that body into a “counterweight” to Medvedev inside the Kremlin administration. Citing an unnamed source, the paper reported that the possibility of keeping Ivanov on as deputy prime minister in charge of the “power agencies” was discussed in March and April but that the idea of having a “decorative power vice premier” was rejected in favor of putting the prime minister personally in charge of the siloviki. The source told Gazeta that this was in part why Putin had decided to remain in high politics. Before internecine warfare broke out among rival siloviki last September, “Putin had seriously planned to leave, at least to rest for a time,” the source told the paper. “The decision to head the government was a forced move. The siloviki grandees’ internecine war has subsided, but it hasn’t ended.”

Gazeta cited “other sources in the Kremlin” as indicating that it was possible Putin could still appoint a deputy prime minister in charge of the “power bloc” and that Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolay Platonovich Patrushev could fill that position, given that in serving as both FSB director and a deputy prime minister, he would “de jure remain subordinated to Putin” (by law, the FSB director is appointed by the president, not by the prime minister).

According to an unnamed Gazeta source, after May 7 the Kremlin administration will be headed by current deputy Kremlin chief-of-staff Vladmir Surkov, a “compromise figure” for Medvedev and Putin. The source said that Medvedev did not want the current Kremlin administration chief, Sergei Sobyanin, to remain in that post, instead proposing a current presidential aide Igor Shuvalov, who was also being pushed by former Kremlin administrative chief Aleksandr Voloshin.

Gazeta’s source said that within a month, the cabinet could introduce amendments to the law on the government, in particular, to Article 32, Chapter 5, which was made part of the law on the advice of Boris Yeltsin and allows the president, essentially in violation of the constitution, to be in charge of the power ministries and the Foreign Ministry, With this change, the prime minister would be able to take over running the country, “including in the spheres of military and foreign policy … The constitution … can be interpreted so that the president, if he is lacking in ambition, turns into an English king and doesn’t interfere in current affairs of state, except in extraordinary cases”

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