Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Power Vertical

The Tandem In Winter

A campaign poster of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeals to people to vote for their political party, United Russia, in parliamentary elections in December.
A campaign poster of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeals to people to vote for their political party, United Russia, in parliamentary elections in December.
A funny thing happened when President Dmitry Medvedev nominated former Astrakhan Mayor Sergei Bozhenov this week as Volgograd's new governor -- allies of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the region rebelled and tried to derail the appointment.
Ivan Novakov, a member of Putin's campaign team in Volgograd, told the daily "Kommersant" that Bozhenov was an unacceptable candidate to many in the local elite because when he served as mayor of Astrakhan he was involved in vote rigging (I'll refrain from commenting on the inherent irony here). A better candidate, Novokov said, would be Sergei Kokorin, a close Putin ally who is the head of the regional branch of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).
In the end, the Volgograd legislature confirmed Bozhenov and he was inaugurated on February 2. But the miniscandal over his appointment speaks volumes about the state of affairs at the pinnacle of Russia's power vertical. 
"It is remarkable that the objections against Sergei Bozhenov originated from members of Putin's local staff. The ambiguity of this situation does not add to the stability of the regional elites," political analyst Andrei Rogozhin told "Kommersant."
The unexpected struggle over Bozhenov's appointment illustrates that Medvedev has not only become the lamest of lame ducks, but that his political partnership with Putin appears to have outlived its sell-by date. This isn't one of those "The Tandem Is Feuding, Oh My" moments that we have seen so much of over the past few years. This time, amid the ongoing political uncertainty in Russia, the tandem finally appears to be dead in the water.
The weekly "Argumenty nedeli" wrote last week, citing Kremlin sources, that Medvedev is "not sure at all that Putin will keep his promise and make [him] the premier" after the March 4 presidential election.
According to the weekly, Medvedev is so concerned about this that he and his wife, Svetlana, visited Patriarch Kirill in early January to seek his support:
The Medvedevs reputedly visited Patriarch Kirill I in early January, asking His Holiness for counsel and support. It is rumored that this was precisely why the patriarch mentioned the necessity of a dialogue between the powers-that-be and society in his sermon. The point was that Medvedev was promoting this dialogue and that he was therefore perfect for the role of the premier.
It does not take a genius to figure out that Putin was informed of the visit. And he reportedly was less than pleased. Putin responded by reactivating contacts with the so-called Christian Chekists -- St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko and Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin. It was Putin's way of reminding the patriarch that he has his own faction within the Russian Orthodox Church.
There have been other signs that the Putin-Medvedev divorce is all but sealed. In an article in the daily "Vedomosti" last week, for example, Putin took a swipe at Medvedev's efforts to reform and modernize the economy.

"On the initiative of President Medvedev in the last years we embarked on a number of reforms aimed at improving the business climate. There has been no noticeable breakthrough so far," Putin wrote. 
Putin has also suggested that the political reforms that Medvedev is trying to shepherd through the State Duma -- restoring the election of governors and easing the rules for the registration of parties and presidential candidates -- were far from a done deal and could be halted.
And in a recent interview with the daily "Izvestiya," the filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin, who heads up Putin's campaign team, sharply criticized Medvedev  for not working harder to secure his patron's election in March. 
"I have a feeling that he is keeping silent," Govorukhin told the staunchly pro-Putin daily, adding that it would be "more appropriate if [Medvedev] took an active part in the campaign of the man whom he himself forwarded as a presidential candidate" at the September 24 United Russia party congress.
But as Maksim Glikin wrote in "Vedomosti" on January 30, it was on that fateful day last autumn that Medvedev essentially wrote his own political obituary:
He has already accomplished his mission and made room for Putin.... The moment Medvedev did this he became expendable. The people who are interested in Medvedev's future know better than to wonder if he is going to return to the Kremlin one fine day. They wonder how long he will last as the prime minister. Even that, however, is a question for Medvedev's master and not for Medvedev himself.
The death of the tandem, however, has political consequences for Putin. 
The constituencies that once placed their hopes in Medvedev, the technocratic wing of the elite and the urban professional class in society, are deeply uncomfortable or outright hostile to Putin's return to the Kremlin. And this will make it much harder for him to govern, regardless of what happens on March 4.
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Putin-Medvedev tandem,Dmitry Medvedev

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
February 03, 2012 02:25
Mr. Whitmore continues to discuss the topic with which everything is clear for a long timе and аll answers received.

It would be interesting to know where Putin asked Medvedev to be a clown president for 4 years
in the bath,
What do you think about it, Mr.Whitmore?

On the other hand it is still better than Yeltsin's style- when decisions are taken after a glass of vodka or because of a severe headache from a hangover..
Next, begin to explore why in Russia is not so as in the West?
What actually affects the "mysterious Russian soul" ?
the area,
Tunguska meteorite..
seen that all factors together.

I wonder where Mr.Whitmore decide to write a certain article?
He enjoys the style of Yeltsin or Putin?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 03, 2012 20:23
Fresh figures from opinion polls taken in Russia on the eve of the upcoming pres. elections:
Putin: 52 %
Zyuganov (Communist Party) - 8 %
Zhirinovsky ("Lib. Dem.") - 8%
Mironov (pro-Kremlin moderate "left") - 4%
Prokhorov (an oligarkh promoted by the Western media) - 4 %
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
February 04, 2012 19:48
Who cares? Some were not even allowed to participate (Yavlinsky), thanks to a corrupt political system.
In Response

by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 07, 2012 13:00
Well, Putin cares. If he massages that 52% up to just over 60% and waltzes back into power in a landslide with no serious opposition and no elections for another five years, he'll likely be quite satisfied. As much as he was looking at this:
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 07, 2012 15:07
Well, as far as Yavlinsky is concerned, his score has remained pretty stable over the last decade - 2% and congratulations! As far as your "who cares" comment is concerned, well, obviously, the info is posted only for those who are interested in it. If someone doesn't care, he/she does not need to feel obliged to react :-)).

by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 07, 2012 12:58
Brian, do you have ANY evidence that "the constituencies that once placed their hopes in Medvedev, the technocratic wing of the elite and the urban professional class in society" are capable of ANY serious action to block Putin's power once he is swept back into office and will not face another election for FIVE YEARS? They have no political party, no presidential candidate, no fundraising, no platform, and no national reach. Navalny said he was taking off the WHOLE MONTH OF JANUARY to put forth a much bigger protest in February, and he totally failed. The showing was smaller and less political than last time, not more. In a nation of 60 million Internet users, Navalny has less than 200K Twitter followers, and for all the world appears to be stuck in place. I see NO indication that the "constituency" you refer to is capable of laying it all on the line to block Putin from consolidating a neo-Soviet dictatorship and passing power to a hand-picked successor who will do the same.

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