Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Power Vertical

Medvedev's Next Move?

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev
Is President Dmitry Medvedev trying to maneuver an old law school colleague Aleksandr Konovalov into the Prosecutor-General's Office?

There was enough speculation last month that Konovalov, currently Russia's justice minister, felt the need to issue a public (albeit weak) denial:

At this point we can say only one thing: this information is the result of rumors, or I should say, it comes from gossip. This is a national sport in Russia, but it is a sport that I do not participate in.

Nevertheless, Konovalov's star continues to rise. "Nezavisimaya gazeta," in its latest monthly list of Russia's 100 most influential politicians, ranked  Konovalov 26th -- eleven places higher than in  June, when he ranked 37th. And as "Nezavisimaya gazeta" points out in its analysis of the list, Konovalov is now more influential than current Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika (who ranks 31st).

This, of course, could mean nothing.  Or it could be huge.

If Medvedev can put a close ally like Konovalov in the Prosecutor-General's post it would go a long way toward dispelling the conventional wisdom that he is merely a symbolic president. It would also undermine the influence of his arch nemesis, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, and the siloviki clan of security service veterans who have long held sway over law-enforcement in general and the Prosecutor-General's office in particular.

In recent months, Medvedev has been slowly but surely increasing his authority by using his power of appointment.

In a recent article in "Russian Profile," Graham Stack writes that Medvedev has been filling the bureaucracy with "civiliki" (officials with backgrounds in civil law) to counter Putin's clan of siloviki:

Medvedev’s background in law does not just serve him intellectually, but as a source of personnel appointments. Besides [German] Gref, who now heads Russia’s largest bank, the state-owned Sberbank, the new Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov also studied and taught alongside Medvedev in Petersburg in the 1990s, where he lectured on Roman and civil law.

From among Medvedev’s undergraduate classmates (class of '87), Konstantin Chuichenko heads the Central Control Directorate in the presidential administration, Nikolai Vinnichenko is presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District, Artur Parfenchikov heads the State Bailiffs Service, Nikolai Gutsan is deputy prosecutor general, and Valeriya Adamova chairs the Moscow Arbitration Court. About a dozen other colleagues and classmates are scattered through the top echelons of the state as well as Gazprom.

Moreover, as fellow Power Verticalista Robert Coalson points out here (citing three posts in the always informative Russia Monitor blog), Medvedev has also been building a base of support in the Federal Bailiffs Service (FBS).

The president apparently feels confident enough in his power to order an investigation of state corporations that appears to be targeting Russian Technologies head Sergei Chemezov, a close Sechin ally.

Meanwhile, at the justice ministry, Konovalov has been shaking up the staff and consolidating his authority. Most notably, as Aleksei Makarkin points out in an article at, Konovalov has replaced almost all of the deputies who worked under former Justice Minister Vladimir Ustinov -- another Sechin ally (and in-law) who preceeded Chaika as Prosecutor-General.

Over at Russia Monitor, Jesse Heath speculates that the housecleaning at justice might be a prelude to Konovalov being promoted to Prosecutor-General:

These events will likely fuel the speculation as to whether or, in my opinion, when Konovalov will leave the Ministry of Justice to bigger and better things, possibly replacing Chaika as Prosecutor-General of Russia...Perhaps real change cannot take place until after Medvedev's reelection, which was of course the case for many of Putin's major personnel changes.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: justice,ministry,sechin,konovalov,prosecutor-general's,office,medvedev

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: La Russophobe from: USA
August 12, 2009 02:38
So, umm, lemmee see if I understand. Medvedev has the FBS, whatever the hell that is, and Putin has . . . the FSB.<br /><br />Medvedev has the envoy to the Urals district and Putin has . . . the Foreign Minister.<br /><br />Medvedev might have the Prosecutor General and Putin has . . . the Supreme Court. And the Russian Army. And a squad of assassins who strike at will with impunity.<br /><br />And you think Medvedev is on a roll? Uh, OK. If you say so.<br /><br />Meanwhile, you don't care to print a word about Natalia Estemirova or Zarema Sadulayeva.<br /><br /><br /><br />If I didn't know better, I'd think you guys had been bought off. Or suckered. Or maybe both.<br /><br />

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

17:49 October 24, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)


A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014


17:26 October 24, 2014


17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)



Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)


A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014


According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

Latest Podcasts

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers 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