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