January 17, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8502

Mishustin Was Not A Shoo-In For Russia's Prime Ministership

January 17, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8502

In the West and Russia as well, the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his replacement by Mikhail Mishustin is considered a personal decision of Vladimir Putin, who saw the need for providing a facelift to an unpopular government that was dragging down ratings and preparing for 2024 when he must leave the presidency.

The Nezigar telegram channel that is closely linked with the Russian Presidential Administration provides a picture of rivalries between various power centers and how the change is likely to have a ripple effect throughout the entire Russian government. What emerges is that no groups are allowed to grow too strong and groups that have lost out in one decision have to receive compensation in the future. Below are five posts from Nezigar speculating on possible repercussions from the Mishustin appointment:

Mikhail Mishustin (Source:

"Transfer and Mishustin (1)

"On the 14th of January, there were three candidates on the short list. Two of them were [Moscow's mayor Sergey] Sobyanin and Mishustin. The president was pondering. The bet was made on Mishustin.

"First of all, as a technical candidate, he will not be burdened by populism. Moreover, he needs to fight poverty without adverse effects for the elites.

Secondly, Mishustin is familiar with and embedded in the financial system. Thirdly, the prime minister is not dependent from the security forces, and with some he is even in the phase of conflict.

"[Putin's reputed personal banker Yury] Kovalchuk, [First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration Alexey] Kiriyenko and [Accounts Chamber head and former finance minister Alexey] Kudrin lobbied on behalf of Mishutin. Mishustin was in contact with all regions, he knows all the governors. He is familiar with big business.

"Part of the PA [Presidential Administration of Russia] and the “Family” [people close to the Yeltsin clan] lobbied for Sobyanin. Medvedev leaned toward Sobyanin’s candidature. The security block opposed Mishustin.

"Until midday no one knew – [who was going to win] Sobyanin or Mishustin.

"This is a critical loss for Sobyanin. In fact, the battle for Moscow now begins. In the coming years, the capital will have a new mayor.

"On Medvedev.

"Around Christmas, Medvedev already knew about [his forthcoming] resignation. The next day, the Medvedev family flew away to rest in the Alps. Medvedev wanted to go to Gazprom. Putin was against it. The decision to resign was made by Putin.

"Medvedev [a former constitutional law professor] will lead neither the court nor Gazprom.[1]

"Transfer and Mishustin (2)

"The appointment of Mishustin as head of government is the beginning of a new balance.

"In fact, this position is now given to the Kovalchuks and their clientele: Kudrin and Kiriyenko.

Mishustin, although a technical figure, but he will have expanded powers, which greatly exceed the powers of [former prime ministers] [Mikhal] Fradkov and [Viktor] Zubkov.

"The government is regaining the lost ground and will become an operator of economic processes.

"A revision of approaches to the implementation of national projects is expected. A series of costly initiatives, including the [data maintenance] “Yarovaya package”, will undergo a change.

"A restructuring of financial relations between the center and the regions [is also expected]. The positions of the regions will be equalized.

"Mishustin will receive a mandate to limit the intervention of security forces in economic processes.

"Some ministry offices will undergo a 'cleaup'. [Finance Minister Anton Siluanov is losing [political] ground.

"The influence of [Putin's economic adviser Andrei] Belousov is growing. [Minister of Economic Development Maxim] Oreshkin’s influence is going to be strengthened.

"It is expected that the women's cabinet [role] will be strengthened. [Elena] Shmeleva[2] is being considered for a position in the government.

"The 'Mishustin-[Katerina] Tikhonova'[3]” link will be strengthened.[4]

"Transfer and Mishustin (3)

"Medvedev-[Security Council Secretary Nikolai] Patrushev-[Rosneft CEO] Igor Sechin: the triumvirate will control security forces. It is possible that they may have to prepare a reform of the security block. Medvedev will become a public actor, repeating the experience of the Luzhkov's resignation.

"As a security official, Medvedev could lead the UR [United Russia] to the elections. But his big negative rating [in the opinion polls] is more likely will lead to his departure from UR. It is possible that the UR and All-Russia People's Front will hold a unification congress.


"The configuration will change due to the strengthening of governors in conjunction with the strengthening of municipalities.

"A party of security forces will have to consolidate itself to maintain positions.

"Chemezov’s position will be eroded. So far, he has maintained positions through [ Deputy Chief of Government Staff Anton] Vaino, [presidential aide Anatoly] Seryshev and [Minister of Industry and Trade Denis] Manturov. [5]

"Transfer and Mishustin (4)

"A change of head of the Constitutional Court is expected. This position is important in the new construction of power. In fact, it is a legal guarantor of balance and stability.

"[Federation Council chair Valentina] Matviyenko is expected to leave the Federation Council. One of the challengers is [Foreign Intelligence Service Directory Sergey] Naryshkin. The new Federation Council should also provide advice on the appointment of security officials and [should] balance the governors.

"Personnel changes are expected in the Prosecutor General’s office. Yury Chaika is about to leave [the office]. One of the candidates is the Moscow prosecutor [Denis] Popov (he is being lobbied by Patrushev). Again, rumors arose that [Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry] Kozak could be the Prosecutor General.

"Under Mishustin, a change of finance minister is possible. Mishustin himself thinks highly of [Deputy Minister of Finance Tatyana] Nesterenko. [Because] through her connection with the Family exists. At the same time, it is expected that the Siluanov-Oreshkin-[Deputy Minister of Economic Development Mikhail] Babich axis will be preserved to balance Mishustin's power.

"There will be a war for the Ministry of Finance. Siluanov will not give up his position so easy.

"Kozak was considered [to be appointed] for Ukrainian direction of policy. But he is one of the few successful government managers. His departure is a weakening [of the government]. Especially because he has a contact with Western partners. So far, [he] remains responsible for operational decisions.

"It is necessary to monitor Manturov, [economist and Deputy Prime Minister Olga] Golodets and [Minister of Health Veronika] Skvortsova – if any of them leaves, it will lower [Rosted CEO Sergey Chemezov's resources. All three ministers are under threat of resignations.

"The departure of [Minister of Digital Development Konstanin] Noskov and [Education Minister Olga] Vasilyeva is expected. There will be a fight for [Minister of Culture Vladimir] Medinsky. [The head of the Federal Service for the Supervision of Natural Resources Svetlana Radionova’s influence may intensify.[6]

"Transfer and Mishustin (5)

"Sobyanin had lost a historical chance.

"The prime minister’s office was being prepared for him. But Sobyanin could have changed the whole design of the transfer.

"The most he can count on now is the transition to the State Council as a deputy to Putin or [a transfer] to the government, but under Putin.

"Сonnection with the Family and the Siloviki hobbled Sobyanin greatly.

"A bundle [combining] the latter and [the oligarchs Boris and Arkady] Rotenberg would have strengthened one of the groups in the party of siloviki. The balance would be upset.

"The family let its guard down too early. The appointment of [Alexander] Voloshin at the head of the Expert Council of the Government outraged everyone - this catalyzed the conflict.

"It is important to consider what positions in the transfer the Rotenbergs will receive. This is a strong group and so far it has been pushed back.

"It is possible that their candidate will be on the short list for the future prime minister, or for the head of the party or for the president’s office.

"It cannot be ruled out that Kiriyenko may lose the position of curator of domestic politics and move to another position (given his desire to become mayor of the capital).

"Kiriyenko is a strong manager, but his minus is his connection with the Kovalchuks. He did not become an independent actor. It annoys many.

"The Kovalchuk group will not be able to hold positions for all three key positions for a long time (government, Federation Council and domestic policy).

"[The State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav] Volodin regains his position and again enters the president's closest circle. Now he is a transfer constructor.

"In addition, ahead of us are the complex procedures for constitutional changes. So far it they are just initiatives and it is required to bring them under the due constitutional process.

"Time is running out. After all, autumn may become the second part of political activity. On the wave of Victory [celebrations] and the expectation of changes.[7]






[1], January 16, 2020.

[2] Shmeleva was one of three co-chairpersons of Putin's 2018 reelection campaign and heads a center for gifted children.

[3] Tikhonova is Putin's younger daughter, and a director of a scientific institute.

[4], January 16, 2020.

[5], January 16, 2020.

[6], January 16, 2020.


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