The Prime Minister and his shadow сabinet | Latest news The Moscow Post
24 September 2020

The Prime Minister and his "shadow сabinet"

Mikhail Mishustin skillfully "beats" the actions of "Sobyanin's team". Does the Head of the Government try on the "suit" of a successor?

Prime Minister  Mikhail Mishustin  at a Government meeting reprimanded Head of the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation (MED) Maxim Reshetnikov for his experiment with "salary" loans. The Minister could not get a loan from the banks he called. He  shared this information with members of the Government. Reshetnikov is considered to be the person of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. According to a correspondent of the Moscow Post, Mishustin still sees him as a rival and tries to put his own people in positions in the Government. Does the Prime Minister see himself as a successor to the post of the President of the Russian Federation?

It is rumored that Head of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexey Kudrin and First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko lobbied for the post of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. However, they can only be visible figures. On the sidelines of the Kremlin, serious passions are arousing on the treshold of the power transfer. And not all people who are interested in the position are known today. Some of them prefer to stay in the shadows for a while.

There is no doubt that an unspoken rivalry between Mikhail Mishustin and Sergei Sobyanin takes place. The Mayor of Moscow was named to be the main contender for the post of the Head of Government after the election of Vladimir Putin as President of the Russian Federation in 2018. But then Dmitry Medvedev remained at his post. Although some new members of the government already represented the team of Sobyanin.

Among them we can mention Head of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation Dmitry Kobylkin, (also ex-Governor of of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area), and head of the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities of the Russian Federation  Vladimir Yakushev, (former Governor of the Tyumen Region). Some political analysts considered the new Government to be temporary and listed Sobyanin as Vladimir Putin's successor. However,  the President confused all the political cards in January.

Immediately after the formation of the Cabinet of Ministers headed by Mikhail Mishustin, there were rumors that Medvedev's people were being fired literally in batches. Sometimes, giving time only to collect their personal belongings. And this indicated that the new head of the Government was "sweeping" it under his colleagues. Having received some ministers by "orders", it was important for Mishustin to take other key positions, including Ministries and Departments Deputies.

In January, Elena Rozhkova became Head of the Secretariat of Deputy Prime Minister of Russian Federation Tatyana Golikova. Alexey Sazanov was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance, Irek Fayzullin became first Deputy Minister of Construction and Housing and Public Utilities of Russia, Igor Zadvornov was appointed Head of the Secretariat of the Acting Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev. Former Minister of Labor and Social Protection Maxim Topilin became Chairman of the Pension Fund of Russian Federation Board. And Anton Drozdov, who heads the Pension Fund became Deputy Finance Minister of the Russian Federation.

In February, Olga Batalina, State Duma Deputy from the Saratov region, Deputy Secretary of the General Council of "Yedinaya Rossiya", took the post of Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Protection of Russia. Sergei Storchak, who worked for 15 years in the Ministry of Finance under the headship of Alexey Kudrin and Anton Siluanov, was dismissed in early March. Allegedly, he moved to another job.

Alexandra Dronova, Director Of the Department of Legal Assistance and Interaction with the Judicial System of the Ministry of Justice of Russia, and Oleg Gridnev, Chief Doctor of the City Clinical Hospital named after M.P. Konchalovsky, became Deputy Heads of the Ministry of Health (Minzdrav).

Could Mikhail Mishustin himself, without any help, "steer" these movements? It is unknown, but one thing is clear – the new Head of Government successfully conducts the necessary personnel policy. And it has a certain strategy. There is no doubt that the replacement of old personnel and the appointment of new ones will continue.

Sobyanin or Mishustin?

Sergei Sobyanin was considered the main contender for the role of Head of Government in January, but the post unexpectedly went to Mikhail Mishustin, who at that time was heading the Federal Tax Service. His detractors immediately started talking about the fact that the new Prime Minister was a temporary figure, who was assigned the role of raking out the "Augean stables" of the economy that former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev left behind.

Mikhail Mishustin is an experienced businessman and financier, equidistant from all groups of influence in the Federal elite. But they, probably, had their own vision for the new Government. Perhaps, that is why there was no radical change of the Cabinet of Ministers. Although the need for change voiced by Vladimir Putin considered this. It became clear that the struggle on the treshold to the transfer of power is yet to come.

Most experts called Mikhail Mishustin a "technical" Prime Minister, who may later be replaced by another one, who will become Vladimir Putin's successor. And everything seemed to depend only on how long the new Prime Minister would be able to hold his post.

Does Sergei Sobyanin have a chance?

There is one thing that the experts did not take into account - Mikhail Mishustin, like those who are behind him, could have completely different plans. And the role of economic whipping boy did not suit the new Head of Government. Especially since the taste of power is sweet, the more you taste it, the more you want it. Even if you weren't taken seriously at first.

After the amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation to reset presidential terms, the intrigue with the successor lost its sharpness. Then everything was easily predicted, although Vladimir Putin repeatedly demonstrated his unpredictability. Perhaps the resetting of deadlines was necessary for better understanding of the balance of power before the transfer.

But suddenly the coronavirus, literally, broke into the political and economic situation of Russia and the whole world. And all predictability vanished. The adoption of the vote on amendments to the Constitution had to be postponed for undefined period. And Sobyanin again got a chance to prove himself.

The Mayor of Moscow headed the State Council Working Group on Countering the Spread of Coronavirus, and Mikhail Mishustin - the Government Coordinating Council to Combat the Spread of Coronavirus. And at the beginning of the epidemic, Sergei Sobyanin clearly took the palm in the fight against the epidemic from Mishustin. The position of the latter one was unclear, and Sobyanin eagerly took up the case. The apotheosis was Vladimir Putin's visit to the hospital on Kommunarka, where infected people were taken from all over Moscow. Mishustin had to do something to raise his shaky authority.

And since it is difficult to prove one's "combat capability" in the fight against the virus with real activity, then, apparently, another way was chosen – to show the mistakes of Sergei Sobyanin. At first, there was information that an emergency regime was allegedly being introduced in Moscow. The police was blamed. Last week, there were queues at metro stations when checking passes and a string of cars was formed on the border with Moscow. The police was blamed again.

While the Prime Minister and the Mayor of Moscow are measuring "noses", Vladimir Putin is conducting meetings almost every day where he is discussing measures to combat coronavirus and, in this regard, support for different segments of the Russian population and various sectors of the economy. Both Mishustin and Sobyanin had only to trasmit the will of the President. But this does not mean that the rivalry between them has stopped. Should we expect more "attacks" on the part of Michail Mishustin this week?

Undercover struggle for power

Now, it may be said that Mikhail Mishustin managed to gather a team of like-minded people around him. And the Deputies of Ministries and Departments appointed by the new Prime Minister are ready to head them at any time. Can we talk about creation of a so-called "shadow government" devoted to Mishustin?

Although Mikhail Mishustin has quite good relations with the current members of the Cabinet of Ministers. Three of the nine Deputy Prime Ministers used to work under the direction of Mishustin. He has a working relationship with First Deputy Prime Minister, Andrey Belousov, who was apparently appointed by the Kremlin to watch over the Head of Government.

One of the key figures is Deputy Prime Minister of Russian Federation Viktoriya Abramchenko, who oversees agriculture and waste reform. She worked under the direction of Mikhail Mishustin at the Ministry’s Department of Real Estate, and in 2016 she became the Head of the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography. She is characterized as a tough leader.

Mikhail Mishustin has excellent relations with Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who joined the Moscow Mayor's Office in the same year as Sergei Sobyanin. Khusnullin stands in front of a grandiose task – the renovation of all Russia. Wasn't it planned a long time ago? Moscow could only be an experimental territory. If this is so, then it is unlikely that Khusnullin can be considered a person of Sergei Sobyanin.

Whose side will Marat Khusnullin take?

Mikhail Mishustin also finds a common language with unsinkable Tatyana Golikova, Social Deputy Prime Minister. Although the recent appointment of two Deputies to the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, supervised by its former Head Golikova, shows that Mishustin is not going to give the Department to anyone. Especially in the current conditions, when billions of rubles are allocated to combat the coronavirus.

It is rumored that Sergei Sobyanin has a mandate to develop practices to fight the epidemic, which will be in demand by the regions. And this cannot but worry Mikhail Mishustin. It is important for him to limit Sobyanin's influence, hence, there is the attack on Maxim Reshetnikov. The Head of Government made it clear who was the boss of the house, reminding that President Vladimir Putin personally gave the order for lending. And it is necessary to monitor the execution on a daily basis.

Now the Perm region is seriously squeezing Reshetnikov's people out of the region. Last week, the most controversial official of the Reshetnikov's draft, Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Syutkin, wrote a letter of resignation. The investigation of the criminal case against his another Deputy Prime Minister, Vitaly Koksharov, was also completed. He patronized a commercial organization run by his friend.

Investigation of scandals in the Perm region may lead to Maxim Reshetnikov. In March, FSS officers raided the Fund of Overhaul Perm region. So Reshetnikov should sit still and be happy that he got out of the region without consequences. At any moment, Mikhail Mishustin can pull the "leash".

Sergei Sobyanin's representatives in the Government are completely lost. The head of the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Utilities Vladimir Yakushev, seems to be pushed back all the important changes that are taking place in the construction industry. Previously, its "mouthpiece" was Vitaly Mutko, and now it is going to be Marat Khusnullin, against whom Yakushev has no chance.

A conflict begins to arise between Victoria Abramchenko, who oversees the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (Minprirody), and its Head Dmitry Kobylkin. Vedomosti  wrote about Abramchenko's dissatisfaction with the development of the concept of waste reform proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Will the attacks on Dmitry Kobylkin begin soon? Waste reform has failed and he can be made guilty.

Two week ago, a scandal broke out with the inclusion of the betting company "Fonbet" in the list of system-forming companies that will be provided with state support. Novaya Gazeta linked one of the founders of the company, Stanislav Magomedov, with Maxim Lalakin, the son of Sergei Lalakin, whom evil tongues consider the head of the Podolsk organized crime group.

But this is not so interesting. Novaya Gazeta named Tatyana Nesterenko, First Deputy Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, as a lobbyist for the entire betting industry. Considering all the changes in the Ministry of Finance that have occurred this year, it can be assumed that Siluanov also fell under the "sight" of Mishustin.

After this scandal, it became known that Mishustin proposed to abandon the unified list of system-forming companies. And First Deputy Head of the Government Andrey Belousov, was responsible for that. Did "stone" fly into his "garden" as well? A huge one! Moment Istiny published an investigation in which it was pointed out that Andrey Belousov was involved in the betting business since 2016. Does Mikhail Mishustin demonstrate that there are no "sacred cows" for him and he is not afraid of any "watchmen"?

It may appear a mistake to concider Mikhail Mishustin to be an obedient executor of Vladimir Putin's will. Everything indicates that the Head of Government has already started his "game".

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