RFE/RL: What is the political significance of the events going on now around the Prosecutor-General's Office?
Vladimir Pribylovsky: I agree with analysts who argue that what happened was a sort of redistribution of the balance of power within the team of [President Vladimir] Putin. The extraordinarily large influence of the group around [deputy presidential administration head Igor] Sechin was restricted a little. The prosecutor-general has been placed under the direct control of the president, without any mediators -- which is the role that Sechin played when [Dmitry] Ustinov was in the position. We will see the same kind of imitation war against corruption that we have seen over roughly the past two months, in which criminal cases will be filed and secondary figures will be jailed -- people who most likely are guilty of something, are somehow soiled, but about whom the main point is that someone wants them out of the way, that they are blocking someone's path, that they don't belong to any of the main groups in Putin's entourage -- or that within the framework of one of those groups, they occupy some peripheral spot so that no one will come to their defense. [Nenets Autonomous Okrug] Governor [Aleksei] Barinov , broadly speaking, belonged to the LUKoil group, but no one is going to break a sweat helping him.
RFE/RL: Does this mean that the Russian political sphere sees itself or will see itself as a space where independent people are not welcome, where there are only "our" people and "their" people, and where everyone of our people or their people has someone in the Kremlin protecting them, where they have to have some protectors within the Prosecutor-General's Office?
Pribylovsky: I would say that this has been the case for a long time. Nothing important has changed in this respect. This system has existed, I would say, since the time of [former President Boris] Yeltsin, although it hasn't completely solidified yet. In addition, under Putin there has been a regrouping of the clans. The clans that dominated in the late Yeltsin period have been dispersed and pushed into the corner or have broken up and dispersed themselves. New clans and groups have settled in firmly around the president and every once in a while they clash a little bit, pull the chairs out from under one another.
RFE/RL: On one side of Putin, you have Igor Sechin. On the other, [deputy presidential administration head Vladislav] Surkov. Who else is among the "nobility"?
"The clans that dominated in the late Yeltsin period have been dispersed and pushed into the corner or have broken up and dispersed themselves. New clans and groups have settled in firmly around the president and every once in a while they clash a little bit, pull the chairs out from under one another."
Pribylovsky: I would say that Surkov is not among the first rank. He is more of a servant, although a very important one. I'd say the elite is Sechin, [First Deputy Prime Minister] Dmitry Medvedev, [Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister] Sergei Ivanov, and [Russian Railways head] Vladimir Yakunin. As for the second rank, there would be Surkov, who in my opinion has been working lately for Dmitry Medvedev, although he might also play some sort of independent role.
RFE/RL: Among the group that was close to Yeltsin, that agreed on the handover of power and put Vladimir Putin into his position, have any of them remained?
Yury Chaika (TASS file photo)
Putin was placed on the throne by two Yeltsin-era groups. One was the so-called Family, which was informally headed by [former oligarch Boris] Berezovsky. The second was the so-called Petersburg economists, informally headed then and now by [Unified Energy Systems head Anatoly] Chubais. They fought with one another, but they were united by the fear that the group headed by [former Prime Minister Yevgeny] Primakov and [Moscow Mayor Yury] Luzhkov would come to power. After the Family was broken up, part of it went into emigration and part into the opposition. But the Chubais group remains intact, although it only plays a role in the economy. Since President Putin trusts them as economists and financial specialists, they have retained their posts -- the Central Bank, the Finance Ministry. That is, Chubais,[Economic Development and Trade Minister German] Gref, [Central Bank Chairman Sergei] Ignatiyev, [Finance Minister Aleksei] Kudrin -- although they are clearly not the leading group in political life.
RFE/RL: Now there are rumors about the impending departure of two deputy prosecutor-generals, people whose names are widely known to the general public because they were involved in high-profile prosecutions. I mean Vladimir Kolesnikov and Sergei Fridinsky. Are these independent figures or is this just the replacement of one group of henchmen by another?
Pribylovsky: Of course, there are no genuinely independent people there. They are all obedient -- Ustinov himself -- if he had been told in time that he was making some sort of mistake from Sechin's point of view -- he would have changed his ways. There are no independent people in the leadership of the Prosecutor-General's Office -- they are all obedient and do what they are told. If they are told to resign, they resign. But there are some original people.
On December 16, 2005, RFE/RL's Washington office hosted a panel discussion on the 4 December Moscow City Duma elections
, which have been widely seen as a preview of the 2007 national legislative elections.
VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA is the official representative of the liberal Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in Washington, D.C., and a co-founder of Free Choice 2008. Kara-Murza described the elections as an "exciting time" for Russian liberals, emphasizing the "breakthrough" achieved when the SPS and the Yabloko party ran a joint list of candidates and secured seats on the city council.
Listen to Kara-Murza's complete presentation (about 10 minutes).
Real Audio Windows Media
ANDREI PIONTKOVSKII is the executive director of the Moscow-based Strategic Studies Center and a member of Yabloko's Federal Council. In his presentation, Piontkovskii emphasized that liberal values are under assault in the Russia of President Vladimir Putin and analyzed the importance of the SPS-Yabloko cooperation.
Listen to Piontkovskii's complete presentation (about 10 minutes).
Real Audio Windows Media
The Moscow City Duma Election -- A Case Of Managed Democracy
A Turning Point For Russia's Liberal Parties?