The List: Seven Kremlin Powerbrokers to Watch
When Russian President-elect Dmitry Medvedev takes the helm in May, powerful technocrats and security barons will be vying for his ear—when they aren’t plotting to undermine him. This week, FP looks at the shadowy figures who will be shaping Russia’s future behind the scenes.
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
Who is he? Minister of regional development
Background: Along with President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, Kozak is one of the St. Petersburg lawyers that Putin brought with him from his time in the citys government. He has served as vice governor of St. Petersburg, deputy head of the presidential administration, and chief of staff of the Russian government. Putin appointed him envoy to the troubled North Caucasus region in the aftermath of the Beslan school massacre.
Political positioning: Kozak and Medvedev each graduated from St. Petersburg State Universitys law school and worked together in St. Petersburgs city government. Both Putin and Medvedev trust him, and his ministry has grown in importance since he took over it last year. A significant number of economic functions have been transferred to that position, which used to be fairly marginal, says Samuel Charap, who researches Russian politics at Oxford University. Kozak played a prominent role in Medvedevs campaign, drumming up regional support for the candidate.
Future prospects: Look for him to be a major player in the new government, possibly as deputy prime minister.
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
Who is he? Chairman of the board of Unified Energy System, a state-controlled power company
Background: A holdover from Boris Yeltsins government, Voloshin served as Putins chief of staff until stepping down in 2003. His resignation was rumored to have been prompted by his anger over the prosecution of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Even outside the Kremlins inner circle, Voloshin maintained a reputation as a formidable backroom power broker.
Political positioning: Voloshin definitely considers himself a liberal compared to the rest of Putins government, in terms of free markets and openness to the West, Charap says. His departure was widely seen as a sign that the siloviki, the hard-line veterans of the security services, were successfully purging the government of Yeltsin-era figures. Indeed, he was conspicuously present at Medvedevs campaign headquarters on election night.
Future prospects: Strong. With the ostensibly technocratic Medvedev in power, it may be time for Voloshin to come in from the cold.
DMITRY ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty Images
Who is he? Head of the presidential administration and former chairman of the state nuclear power company. He was also Medvedevs campaign manager.
Background: A native of the Tyumen region in central Russia, Sobyanin served in local government before being elected governor in 2001 and replacing Medvedev as head of the presidential administration in 2005. Sobyanin, who grew up in a village in the Ural Mountains, is something of an outsider in a government drawn largely from St. Petersburg and Moscow operators.
Political positioning: The appointment of Sobyanin to replace Medvedev was seen by many as an effort to rally the support of regional leaders behind the latter. Sobyanin is the main supervisor of the executive branch, and as a capable technocrat who is not tied to any of the Kremlins political factions, he is well positioned to expand his influence in the new administration.
Future prospects: He will likely stay on in his current position.
Who is she? Wife of President-elect Dmitry Medvedev and chair of a special government-church commission on the moral culture of Russian youth
Background: Medvedeva has known the future president since first grade. She trained as an economist but gave up her career after the birth of her son.
Political positioning: Medvedeva is rumored to have urged her husband to enter politics when he was a young law professor in St. Petersburg. A gregarious socialite known for her celebrity friends and high-fashion wardrobe, she is unlikely to remain out of sight like her predecessor, Lyudmila Putina. The Russian media is already drawing comparisons to former First Lady Raisa Gorbacheva, a formidable political operator in her time. Its clear that shell be a much more public figure and is said to be much more of an advisor and confidante, Charap says.
Future prospects: Strong, if she plays her cards right. Medvedeva is known to be deeply religious and may use her position to increase the influence of the Orthodox Church in public policy.
EAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images
Who is he? Assistant to the president
Background: A veteran of the KGB, Ivanov served as a major general under Putin at its successor agency, the FSB. Putin named him deputy head of the presidential administration immediately after taking office in 2000. He is considered one of the outgoing presidents closest advisors.
Political positioning: Medvedevs ascent is a major blow to the influence of dyed-in-the-wool siloviki like Ivanov. According to all the speculation, before Medvedevs appointment, they were pushing another candidate, says Charap. Former Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (no relation) was widely considered to be their choice. Under Putin, Viktor had immense power within the administration, approving all staff appointments, a level of influence the new president is unlikely to tolerate.
Future prospects: Ivanov is down for now but will probably land on his feet. Hes likely to follow Putin to the Duma or take a position in industry.
ALEXEY PANOV/AFP/Getty Images
Who is he? Head of the federal drug control service
Background: Cherkesov served in the KGB and directed the St. Petersburg office of the FSB. He has been Russias drug czar since 2003. He is also seen as the leader of a siloviki clan that includes Russias prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika, and the head of Putins personal security service, Viktor Zolotov.
Political positioning: Cherkesovs battles with the rival siloviki clan led by Igor Sechin went dramatically public last year with a series of newspaper op-eds, interagency arrests, armed standoffs, and suspicious poisonings. Cherkesovs faction is thought to be closer to Medvedev, and he may be the best-positioned silovik in the new government.
Future prospects: If hes lucky, he may get to supplant another bitter rival, Nikolai Patrushev, as head of the FSB.
DENIS SINYAKOV/AFP/Getty Images
Who is he? Deputy head of the presidential administration
Background: A former military interpreter, Sechin worked as Putins chief of staff in St. Petersburg and later replaced him as deputy head of presidential administration in 1998. His faction includes Patrushev and Alexander Bastrykin, who leads the newly formed special investigative committee within the prosecutor generals office.
Political positioning: The formation of the mostly autonomous special investigative committee was a victory for Sechins clan in undermining Prosecutor General Chaika. But clan leaders may have stepped over the line when they actually started arresting members of the Cherkesov group. Things came to a head last October in a brawl between members of the investigative committee and the drug control service at Moscows Domodedovo International Airport. The committee itself was put under investigation by the prosecutor generals office. The one wild card in Sechins deck may be Bastrykin, who was Medvedevs professor at law school.
Future prospects: Barring any surprise developments, Sechin will likely step down to work for Putin or for Rosneft, the main competitor to Medvedevs Gazprom.
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