By sacking 18 senior Interior Ministry officials, including two deputy interior ministers, and ordering structural changes, Samarina argues that Medvedev has launched a "major offensive" to assert his authority:
Color me skeptical for the time being -- but that could change. It will take a little bit of spade work to get a firm grip on the political ramifications of Medvedev's move. The key questions, of course, relate to the personnel changes. More specifically, are they real or are they cosmetic? Did they benefit any particular Kremlin clan? Or were they politically neutral? Will those sacked show up weeks or months later in some other influential position?
I don't have answers to these questions yet. But I plan to do a little digging (and would welcome any input from other Kremlin-watchers out there).
In his biggest personnel change, Medvedev fired Deputy Interior Ministers Nikolai Ovchinnikov and Arkady Yedelev, replacing them with Sergei Gerasimov and Sergei Bulavin.
Both Gerasimov and Bulavin had served in Medvedev's Kremlin administration. Gerasimov was head of the department for constitutional rights and Bulavin worked in the legal department.
As I have blogged here before, Medvedev has been trying to fill the bureaucracy with so-called "civiliki," officials with backgrounds in civil law, to counter the strength of the "siloviki" clan of security service veterans surrounding Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
According to some reports, Medvedev has been particularly keen to do this in the law-enforcement and criminal justice structures, where the siloviki are strongest. Medvedev has reportedly been trying, apparently without success thus far, to get his old law school colleague Aleksandr Konovalov, currently the Justice Minister, named Prosecutor General.
Were yesterday's personnel changes part of the effort to promote the civiliki? And if they were, how will the siloviki respond? It seems I have something to keep me busy for a little while.
-- Brian Whitmore