September 11, 2018

Analytical bulletin #10 (11) 2018

Dear Readers,

We would like to present to you the next issue of the Bulletin #10 (11) 2018 «REALITY OF RUSSIAN POLITICS».

Table of contents and short summary

EVENTS

Murder of the Head of the DPR and Appointment of the New Leader 

The murder of Alexander Zakharchenko came as a thunderclap to the Kremlin. A key version speaks of a conflict in business interests within the DPR. There is growing tension between the overseers of Donbass in Russia: on the one hand, Vladislav Surkov, who is betting on a local civilian political environment, and on the other, the FSB with its vested interest in implementing the LPR scenario (replacing Plotnitsky with Pasechnik from the special services). The murder of Zakharchenko is being used by the FSB to discredit Surkov as regards managing the DPR-LPR. However, the fact that Denis Pushilin, who has no ties to the “siloviki,” was chosen as the new acting head shows Putin’s support for Surkov’s approach.

MAIN ACTORS

Change of the Presidential Representative in the Volga Federal District

A change of Presidential Envoy in the Volga Federal District was one of the key intrigues over the last year. It was no secret that, for past two years, the Kremlin had been searching for a replacement for the former Presidential Envoy Mikhail Babich. After it was not possible to appoint Babich ambassador to Ukraine in 2016, he was appointed ambassador to Belarus. Officially, for Babich, this is a demotion. But, the context must be borne in mind: the Kremlin is preparing for a period of tough political bargaining with Alexander Lukashenko, and the bargaining will go far beyond disputes on credit and customs duties. The new Presidential Envoy Igor Komarov is one of Sergei Chemezov’s (head of Rostec) men and he is a compromise for all the key players of the region, including Sergei Kirienko and Vyacheslav Volodin. However, Komarov’s position remains vulnerable after he has served at the head of Roscosmos where the FSB is conducting investigations in several areas (case of espionage and corruption).

PROCESSES

Russia Prepares for New Sanctions from the US

The looming introduction of new US sanctions in connection with the Skripal case was one of the key topics at meetings, in which the President took part in August and early September.The prevailing opinion among participants holds that the demands being made of Russia are deliberately impossible to satisfy thereby making dialogue with the US (and with the West as a whole) futile.

Yet, within the ruling elite there is no consensus of the approach to anti-sanctions policy, and herein lies root cause of the competition emerging between various “centers of influence,” where each one has its priorities: the Defense Ministry, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, the Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Foreign Policy Directorate and the special services. Here,  Nikolai Patrushev, Security Council Secretary, has a special place. He is trying to consolidate his position, including through the situational coalition with the head of EMERCOM Yevgeny Zinichev.

Rising Influence of the Presidential Administration on Socio-economic Policy 

In recent months, there has been an unnatural change in the position of the Presidential Administration in comparison to past experience, first and foremost, that of the overseers of domestic policy within the State decision-making system. The heads of the Presidential Administration are building up their influence on the quotidian work of the government. That relates to digitization of the economy (strengthening of the Presidential Control Directorate headed by Dmitry Shalkov, who is working together with Sergei Kirienko) and the FES (keenness of Kirill Molodtsov, assistant to the Chief of Staff, Anton Vaino). Growing influence of the Presidential Administration on the work of the government is also being facilitated by the inconsistent position of Dmitry Medvedev, whose “disappearance” in August was one of the hottest topics of discussion.

 Distinguished readers, the next issue of the bulletin will be issued on 25 September. One of the main topics will be the outcome of the regional elections in Russia (9 – 16 September).

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