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Kremlin 'Gray Cardinal' Under Fire


Deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vladislav Surkov

Deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vladislav Surkov

The brutal attack on "Kommersant" political reporter Oleg Kashin this weekend has put the reclusive and powerful Kremlin deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov in an unwelcome spotlight.

The regime's de facto ideologist, Surkov is in charge of managing pro-Kremlin youth groups like Nashi and the Young Guard -- both of whom were targets of Kashin's investigative reports.

Following the attack on Kashin, word spread quickly that the Young Guard, the youth wing of the ruling United Russia party, had earlier posted the journalist's picture on its website with the caption: "Must Be Punished."

The leaders of three opposition movements -- Solidarity's Boris Nemtsov, Democratic Choice head Vladimir Milov, and Republican Party chief Vladimir Ryzhkov -- have signed an open letter calling for Surkov's resignation:

The violent assault against Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin leaves no doubt that an atmosphere of hatred against anybody who disagrees with Putin's course. The country is heading toward the creation of a corrupt police state.

In the danger zone are journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society activists. Every day, their lives and health are at risk. Attacks on journalists by scum who act with impunity help spin the flywheel of dastardly terror.

We believe that what is happening in Russia is connected with the policies pursued by Putin and his team, which remains in power. This policy is aimed at stifling free speech, the destruction of the opposition, and the persecution of human rights activists who fight for civil rights.

The main conductor of this policy is Vladislav Surkov, the first deputy head of the presidential administration. He is in charge of all sorts of extremist and Nashi-ist organizations, which are financed by the Kremlin. He is responsible for the censorship has reigned in the most important media. He is guilty of organizing thoroughly falsified so-called elections. He is the author of black technology that is used to defame independent journalists and the opposition.

We demand his resignation immediately.

We believe that the resignation of Mr. Surkov would be a first and necessary step to recovery suffocating atmosphere of intolerance and violence that exists in Russia.

Surkov, more than anyone, is indeed responsible for the emergence of Nashi-ism in Russia over the past decade. He nurtured, enabled, and arranged the financing of youth groups that have persistently harassed the Kremlin's opponents.

Will Surkov take a fall? I seriously doubt it. After serving in high Kremlin posts under all three of Russia's post-Soviet presidents, Surkov has proven himself to be a deft bureaucratic survivor. He is also highly skilled at making himself indispensible to his masters of the moment.

But as someone who likes to operate in the shadows, the man known as the Grey Cardinal of the Kremlin cannot be happy about the attention he is receiving.

I'll have more on this as it develops.

-- Brian Whitmore

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or

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