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Russia Report: May 6, 2002

6 May 2002, Volume 2, Number 15
Next week will mark the second anniversary of the launching of Russian President Vladimir Putin's reforms of the Russian Federation. A review of Putin's federal reforms launched and implemented over the course of his more than two years in power shows that while he and his administration may have intended to build up an impressive leviathan wielding huge power over the regions, they haven't quite accomplished their goal yet. Putin's reform of the federal system has curbed some of the powers of regional governors and presidents, particularly in the Federation Council and in terms of budget spending. However, most regional leaders, often working in a tight alliance with local oligarchs, continue to steer their own course oblivious to Moscow's wishes. Similarly, Putin's presidential envoys often appear to be marching to their own tune as they follow their own diverse agendas.

Despite a decree which lays out their functions rather precisely, and despite President Putin's public statements of how he sees the envoys' role, the presidential envoys, or "polpredy" as they are often called, appear to have widely different views of their own responsibilities. According to the decree of 13 May 2000, the tasks of the envoys are essentially threefold: one, to check regions' conformity to federal laws; two, to coordinate the activities of federal-level officials operating in the regions; and three, to analyze the effectiveness of local law enforcement agencies. While there have been reports in the Russian press about envoys seeking or being given additional powers, nothing has been formalized so far. In practice -- in addition to the tasks laid out by the decree -- all of the envoys to a greater or lesser extent have been engaged in cadre decisions regarding local law enforcement and other officials, the promotion of their district's investment potential to both foreign and domestic investors, and the formulation of district-wide economic strategies.

But that is where the similarities end. The activities of the envoys vary so greatly from district to district that an outsider might not guess that they have the same job title. Of all the envoys, presidential envoy to the Central Federal District Georgii Poltavchenko, the envoy to the Northwest Federal District Viktor Cherkesov, and envoy to the Urals Federal District Petr Latyshev have been the most engaged in business and business promotion. Leonid Drachevskii, envoy to the Siberian Federal District, has focused on economic policies, overseeing the development of a multiyear economic strategy for his region. His office also tried to engineer an agreement among local energy producers to keep caps on prices. The presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, Viktor Kazantsev, understandably, has had the most interaction with military personnel, given that his district encompasses Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia, and most of Russia's multiethnic flashpoints. (He reportedly even flies around his district in military planes.) Kirienko, the former prime minister, appears to have the broadest view of his job. In addition to his active engagement in governing Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, his office has been engaged in active consultation with local religious leaders, studying the role of municipal and town governments, and supporting the opening of an okrug center for the pro-Kremlin journalists' group, Media Union, among other things, according to a recent unpublished paper by Gulnaz Sharafatdinova of George Washington University.

To some extent, given how diverse the economic and social conditions of the various districts are, it makes sense that the men tasked to oversee them would do different things. It was also perhaps predictable that the diverse backgrounds of the envoys might lead to their tasks being performed differently. Drachevskii is a former diplomat with little experience of Siberia, while Pulikovskii and Kazantsev are former military commanders. That the two former KGB officers, Poltavchenko and Cherkesov, and the former high-ranking Interior Ministry (MVD) official, would have become big boosters for business may seem surprising. However, it is also possible that their interaction with local force structures has been as great as with local businesses -- but this area of their activities has simply received less publicity. It should also be noted that Kirienko is the most open to inquiries from the press and other nongovernmental agencies. Pulikovskii's office, by contrast, would not provide even the simplest information, such as how many people work there, when this author attempted to obtain that information in Khabarovsk last year.

Tasks and their implementation have also differed due to the varying personal agendas of the envoys. Kirienko has said in more than one interview that he sees the office of the envoy as a "temporary" one which will fade away as soon as the tasks that they were formed to perform, such as the harmonization of laws, are completed (see "RFE/RL Newsline," "End Note," 27 October 2000). However, with the proliferation of district-level agencies, councils, and staff, there are few signs that the okrugs will be here today and gone tomorrow. Perhaps it is not the office that is temporary but Kirienko. Most analysts consider his ambitions too large to be confined to Nizhnii Novgorod. He is likely using his experience there to further add to his corps of loyal professionals.

In addition to having different kinds of envoys with different kinds of experience in regions with different sets of challenges, the make-up of the district-level staff differs from district to district. Much attention was initially drawn to the fact that five of the seven polpredy are either former intelligence or military officers. What is less-known is that in these districts, the apparatus of the "polpredstvo" is packed with former members of the Federal Security Service (FSB), MVD, and military. For example, of the 18 chief federal inspectors in the Central District, six are former officers in the FSB, MVD, or Federal Tax Police, Nikolai Petrov of Macalester College has found. In the smaller Urals Federal District, four of six of the chief federal inspectors are either former FSB, MVD, or military officers -- three had the rank of general, according to an unpublished paper Sergei Kondratev wrote for a recent conference held at George Washington University. In the Southern Federal District, five of 10 deputy envoys are former military or intelligence officials, Natalya Zubarevich wrote for the same conference. In contrast, Kirienko's staff in the Volga District has more representatives with federal government and commercial business experience.

But an equally compelling factor for the varied performances is varying levels of oversight from Moscow. The issue of oversight has been a complicated one. Originally the presidential administration's chief territorial administration had assumed some administrative responsibility for the polpredy, but in January 2000, the administration was disbanded, its head "transferred" to another position, and presidential administration head Aleksandr Voloshin was given direct responsibility for the polpredy (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 January 2001). Voloshin meets with the polpredy once a month, and has himself traveled to two districts, the Northwest and the Urals, to meet with the polpredy on their own turf.

Of course, with the exception of reports on these monthly meetings and Voloshin's trips, little is publicly known or recorded about Voloshin's oversight of the polpredy. Whether he is pleased or displeased with Kirienko's broad interpretations of his power or with Drachevskii's narrower interpretation -- little is known. It is known that Voloshin has quite a number of other issues on his plate. For one thing, his own job security has been a subject of much speculation in the press (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 3 December 2001). In addition, he lacks the personal connection to his "boss" Vladimir Putin that other polpredy such as Viktor Cherkesov have. Cherkesov's career has closely tracked that of Putin. And in ratings of political influence of public figures in St. Petersburg, Viktor Cherkesov ranks second. So it's not clear that Voloshin -- assuming he wanted to closely supervise and control Cherkesov's activities -- has the bureaucratic resources in Moscow or St. Petersburg to do so. And how Voloshin can closely or effectively supervise Pulikovskii based in Vladivostok or Drachevskii in Novosibirsk -- thousands of kilometers away -- is another question.

It seems not unreasonable to suggest that the envoys, whose task is to coordinate, are themselves little coordinated. And while the polpredy may have been intended by the presidential administration as a "control" mechanism in the regions, there is some evidence to suggest that they themselves are not under strict control. Some of them seem instead to be building independent power bases from which they can actively engage in local politics.

The role that each of the presidential envoys is playing in local politics usually becomes most evident in the run-up to elections. And as with the polpredy's other activities, the pattern of interference has been quite varied. For example, in the Siberian Federal District, Drachevskii has shied away from most forms of direct or even indirect interference in regional elections. Persons who work in his apparatus are required to resign if they decide to seek public office (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 January 2001). Drachevskii and his office's attitude towards elections has been so hands-off, he doesn't even pretend to be performing a monitoring function or ensuring the elections are carried out as required by law.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are the activities of Kirienko and Pulikovskii. Pulikovskii, a former military general, played a very public role in a series of successive elections in his district, while Kirienko, a former prime minister, has openly interfered in only in a few campaigns -- most notably in Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast, where the district's headquarters are located. Prior to the gubernatorial election in the oblast, a new government structure for the oblast was established in which the chairman or prime minister received more power than the governor. Sergei Obozov, one of Kirienko's closest assistants, was named to that post (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 December 2001). Local political analysts also claimed that local media outlets loyal to Kirienko were unleashed against the forces battling incumbent governor Ivan Sklyarov, who at that time was essentially a figurehead in a structure overseen by a Kirienko loyalist. Kirienko's candidate ended up losing in the second round of the election to a Communist Party challenger, Gennadii Khodyrev, but local analysts report that Kirienko has reached an understanding with Khodyrev and together they managed to back the winners of the majority of seats in oblast's legislative elections last month (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 April 2002).

Pulikovskii has had even less success than Kirienko with elections and a lot more publicity. Pulikovskii, a general and former military commander in Chechnya, had little experience with regional or elective politics and quickly earned the nickname "Tank" for the subtlety with which he approached his task in the krai and elsewhere (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 20 June 2001). Following Nazdratenko's resignation as governor, Pulikovskii pushed forward his first deputy, Apanasenko, a man with little experience running for office, as the best candidate to rule the krai. And later, after complaining about slanted media coverage during the campaign, Pulikovskii publicly challenged both Vladivostok's mayor and a local media executive to a duel (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 21 March 2001). Although considerably less dramatic, Pulikovskii also played roles in the regions' other elections. By April 2001, Mikhail Shinkovskii of Vladivostok State University, an expert on regional elections in the Far East, determined that Pulikovskii's record in gubernatorial elections in the okrug was unbroken -- he backed the loser every time. More recently, Pulikovskii offered a slightly different self-assessment. He suggested his success rate in achieving the goals was 70 percent, adding that his active role in regional elections had prevented criminals taking office (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002).

Nevertheless, by the time the presidential elections in Sakha (Yakutia), home of Russia's diamond-mining industry, rolled around in December 2001, Pulikovskii had been relegated to a background role, and other Kremlin actors, including President Putin himself, got involved in engineering a result more to the presidential administration's liking. The incumbent withdrew before the race, and a candidate deemed acceptable to the republic's elite as well as the Kremlin went on to win (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 December 2001). In the Sakha race, the financial stakes were high, but in other regional elections sometimes neither the presidential administration nor its envoys bother to register a preference. In some races, the administration is keen only to ensure that a certain candidate does not win. In Nizhnii Novgorod, for example, this candidate was considered to be former Nizhnii Novgorod Mayor and convicted felon Andrei Klimentev (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 12 December 2001). Lest it be thought that Pulikovskii and Kirienko are the exceptions to the rule of election interference, it should be noted that the current governor of Tyumen Oblast, Sergei Sobyanin, was the former deputy presidential envoy to the Urals Federal District. His boss, Urals envoy Latyshev, gave Sobyanin not only verbal but also administrative support. For the month of the gubernatorial election in Tyumen, not only Sobyanin but also another deputy envoy were deployed in the region on an almost permanent basis, Sergei Kondratev reported in a recent unpublished paper.

The polpredys' engagement in local politics would appear to go against what Putin had intended -- or at least what he said he intended. Responding two years ago to initial criticisms that he was attempting to usurp or diminish the powers of elected regional officials, such as governors, with his envoys, Putin stated that the polpredy were designed "not to interfere in the internal affairs of the regions but to ensure the more efficient work of federal structures." He added that "you can call the reforms managerial -- not federal, not constitutional -- but managerial" (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 31 May 2000). Some eight months later, Putin also stated that his personal envoys to the seven federal districts should act strictly within the limits of their powers "and never interfere in the sphere of local leaders," adding that their task is "to coordinate the activities of the federal districts, not govern them," (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 3 January 2001). Apparently, the polpredy weren't listening, and/or they have gotten signals from the presidential administration that their activities are in line with expectations. None of them have been dismissed or even publicly criticized. And in his recent annual message to the Federal Assembly, Putin hinted that he was thinking of finally giving the envoys real power -- the authority to monitor financial flows (see "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 24 April 2002).

Why would Putin even consider giving more powers to a group of officials over which he appears to have limited control and whose performance has not been fully effective? The simplest answer is that he doesn't have much of an alternative. The polpredy may not be much, but perhaps they are all he's got. As Peter Reddaway of George Washington University recently argued, President Putin's powers are probably more formal than real (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 17 April 2002). According to Reddaway, Putin has a '"short bench of personal loyalists" from whom to draw and he has failed to build an independent power base. According to this view, we would or should not expect Putin to have many tools available to project his power in the regions.

But others, such as Petrov, who point to the proliferation of former military and intelligence officials in the new, growing, state apparatus, would likely say that the simplest answer to this question is not -- in the end -- the correct one. In their view, Putin and his envoys -- despite their rhetoric -- are slowly building a police state. In the meantime, as new presidential elections approach, Putin and his envoys will likely become ever more engaged in the regions. And with their new actions, a clearer answer to the question of what role the envoys are playing will finally be provided. (Julie A. Corwin)

District: Northwest
Presidential Representative: Lieutenant General Viktor Vasilevich Cherkesov
Professional Background: Cherkesov, 52, is a former head of the St. Petersburg directorate of the FSB from 1992-98. In 1998 he was transferred to Moscow, where he was second in command of the FSB's domestic intelligence bureau.
Headquarters: St. Petersburg
Regions in district: Karelia and Komi republics, Arkhangelsk, Vologda, Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Murmansk, Novgorod, and Pskov oblasts, the city of St. Petersburg, and Nenets Autonomous Okrug

District: Urals
Presidential Representative: Colonel General Petr Mikhailovich Latyshev
Professional Background: Latyshev , 53, was previously deputy interior minister, in which capacity he investigated corruption in St. Petersburg's administration and traveled to the North Caucasus. Earlier in his career, Latyshev worked in Interior Ministry departments in Perm and Krasnodar Krai.
Headquarters: Yekaterinburg
Regions in District: Kurgan, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Chelyabinsk oblasts and Khanty-Mansii and Yamalo-Nenets autonomous okrugs

District: Volga
Presidential Representative: Sergei Vladilenovich Kirienko
Professional background: Kirienko, 39, was previously a State Duma deputy and head of the Union of Rightist Forces. He was named acting prime minister of Russia by Boris Yeltsin in March 1998 after spending four months as fuel and energy minister. In August 1998, he was dismissed as prime minister.
Headquarters: Nizhnii Novgorod
Regions in District: Bashkortostan, Marii El, Mordovia, Tatarstan, Udmurtia, and Chuvash republics, Kirov, Nizhnii Novgorod, Orenburg, Penza, Perm, Samara, Saratov, and Ulyanovsk oblasts, and Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug

District: Central
Presidential Representative: Lieutenant General Georgii Sergeevich Poltavchenko
Professional background: Formerly a presidential representative to Leningrad Oblast, Poltavchenko, 49, also held positions in the KGB (for 13 years) and with the tax police. While a lieutenant general in the tax police in St. Petersburg, Poltavchenko got to know President Putin, who was then deputy mayor of that city.
Headquarters: Moscow
Regions in District: Belgorod, Bryansk, Vladimir, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Kaluga, Kostroma, Kursk, Lipetsk, Moscow, Orel, Ryazan, Smolensk, Tambov, Tver, Tula, and Yaroslavl oblasts, and Moscow city

District: Southern
Presidential Representative: General Viktor Germanovich Kazantsev
Professional background: Until April 2000, Kazantsev, 56, was the commander in chief of Russia's armed forces in Chechnya. Kazantsev also served in Afghanistan.
Headquarters: Rostov-na-Donu
Regions in District: Adygeya, Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Kalmykia, Karachai-Cherkessia, North Ossetia, and Chechen republics, Krasnodar and Stavropol krais, Astrakhan, Volgograd, and Rostov oblasts

District: Siberia
Presidential Representative: Leonid Vadimovich Drachevskii
Professional background: A career diplomat, Drachevskii, 60, was a general consul in Barcelona, director of the CIS department at the Foreign Ministry, Russia's ambassador to Poland, deputy minister for CIS affairs, and most recently, minister for CIS affairs.
Headquarters: Novosibirsk
Regions in District: Altai, Buryatia, Tuva, and Khakassia republics, Altai and Krasnoyarsk krais, Irkutsk, Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Tomsk, and Chita oblasts, Taimyr, Ust-Ordinskii and Evenk autonomous okrugs

District: Far East
Presidential Representative: Lieutenant General Konstantin Borisovich Pulikovskii
Professional background: From 1994-96, Pulikovskii, 54, was a commander in the Chechen war and served as acting commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya during the three weeks in August 1996 when the Chechens launched a major offensive and retook Grozny. Pulikovskii oversaw the presidential campaign for President Putin in Krasnodar Krai, where Pulikovskii had worked both as an assistant to the krai governor and later to the Krasnodar mayor, then he was named a presidential envoy to the krai by Boris Yeltsin.
Headquarters: Khabarovsk
Regions in District: Sakha Republic, Primorskii and Khabarovsk krais, Amur, Kamchatka, Magadan, and Sakhalin oblasts, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and Koryak and Chukotka autonomous okrugs

Sources: "RFE/RL Russian Federation Report," 17 and 24 May 2000,

9-12 May: V-Day celebrations in Russia

14-15 May: Foreign ministers of NATO countries and Russia will meet in Reykjavik

15 May: State Duma to consider draft law on the Central Bank in its third reading

16 May: State Duma will hold an additional unscheduled plenary meeting

17 May: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher to visit Moscow

19 May: By-elections to be held in Altai Republic for State Duma seat left vacant by newly elected Altai Republic President Mikhail Lapshin

19 May: Gubernatorial elections in Smolensk Oblast

20 May: International press center for the 300th anniversary in St. Petersburg will open

21 May: A conference of transportation ministers from the countries that are signatories to the Agreement on North-South International Transportation Corridor will take place in St. Petersburg

23-26 May: U.S. President George W. Bush to visit Russia

23 May: State Duma will hold an additional unscheduled plenary meeting

26 May: Channel 6 will come back on the air, according to Channel Six General Director Aleksandr Levin on 25 April

27 May: NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson will visit Moscow to open NATO's first permanent military mission there

28 May: World Bank's Board of Directors to discuss its Russia strategy

29 May: Russia-EU summit to be held in Moscow

31 May: CIS summit to be held in Chisinau, Moldova

First half of June: Communist Party will hold a party plenum, according to Interfax on 19 April.

June: Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit to take place in St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported

June: Baltic Sea State Council meeting to be held in St. Petersburg

June: Government will have drafted a federal program for putting Russia's armed forces on a professional basis, according to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 7 December

June: Russia and the U.S. will have drafted an agreement on radical cuts in strategic offensive weapons, according to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 18 December

2 June: NTV's broadcasting license is set to expire, according to Ekho Moskvy on 23 April

9 June: Repeat elections for legislature of Primorskii Krai

17 June: Trial of former Aeroflot executives on charges of embezzlement to resume, according to ITAR-TASS on 25 April

23 June: Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Buryatia

26-28 June: Group of Seven summit to be held in Canada

1 July: Russia will complete its withdrawal from the military base at Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam

1 August: Russia's first full-scale facility for the destruction of chemical weapons will be launched in Gorny in Saratov Oblast, according to presidential envoy Kirienko

12 August: Second anniversary of the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine

September: Symposium and investment fair for atomic power plants to take place in Vladivostok

10-11 September: The fourth annual conference of the regional administrations of countries in Northeast Asia will take place in Khabarovsk

9-16 October: All-Russia census

26-27 October: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held in Las Cabos, Mexico

7 November: Day of Reconciliation and Agreement.