Who really rules Russia?

By Slava Tsukerman

Russian Internet is lately full of numerous speculations about secret fights among various political forces surrounding Russia President Vladimir Putin and about the likely future outcome of these secret battles. It’s difficult to take most of these analyses and predictions seriously. Nevertheless, the below analysis was reposted by many Russian websites.

It comes from journalist Olga Romanova in her interview of the chief editor of Charter 97, one of the popular Russian democratic opposition websites.

Romanova is a top Russian journalists. She was an anchor of several important political TV programs and columnist in popular papers. From 2007 to 2008 she was an economics editor of the Russian New Times magazine and the chief editor of Russia’s Business Week magazine.

Since 2007 she has been Professor of Media Communications, Department of Journalism at the Russian National Research University’s Higher School of Economics.

She is also one of the prominent Russian opposition activists, the director of the civil rights organization Jailed Russia.

According to Romanova, over the past fourteen years the power in Russia have somehow been shared among four different clans: the security services clan led by the Igor Sechin (KGB renamed FSB representative and the head of the biggest oil producing company Rosneft); the military clan, now represented by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu; the personal friends of Putin (Rotenberg brothers, Kovalchuk, Timchenko); and the clan of Gazprom (Miller – Medvedev).

Romanova thinks that all the events of the last months indicate the defeat of the President’s friend’s clan.

She speaks about two striking example. The first example: Rotenberg brothers, who during all these years were engaged in manufacturing pipes for “Gazprom”, now have been moved away from this project by Sechin’s people. And the second example is the new law forbidding foreigners to own Russian media. Everybody thinks that this law is directed only against democratic opposition. Romanova makes the point that the main Russian tool of propaganda – The First Channel of TV is owned by National Media Group, headed by Alina Kabaeva, former gymnastics World champion and, according to gossips, Putin’s girlfriend – is financed entirely offshore.

Romanova thinks that Putin already has lost the clan of his friends. Earlier, security forces pushed all the liberals, such as Economics minister German Gref and Finance minister Alexei Kudrin, from the government. Now they are getting rid of the former friends of the President.

She presents another example: the recent arrest of the Russian tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a person 100% loyal to Putin. The only reason for the arrest was Igor Sechin’s desire to take over Evtushenkov’s assets. Never before could such things happen in Putin’s Russia.

Romanova thinks that Putin had lost political control and all which is happening now in Ukraine is also the result of the fight between the remaining two powerful clans – the army and the FSB.

The interviewer asked Romanova:

“So, has Putin has become a hostage of the system he himself created?”

Romanova answered:

“I think he is almost eaten up. He’s the President in the opinion of the outside world, but not in Russia. What’s happening now is the struggle between the two real presidents – Sechin and Shoigu.”

The interviewer asked:


Romanova answered:

“Yes, they are the two people who are in fact ruling Russia. Putin is the presidential facade for Angela Merkel. Inside of Russia these two other forces rule”.

Analyzing the economic and political situation in Russia, Romanova comes to conclusion that the official fall of Putin is going to happen very soon. And she doesn’t expect that Putin will be replaced by a more democratic ruler. She expects the opposite:

“Yes, a quite terrible person can come to power: Sechin… or Shoigu. But do not be afraid of it. The earlier he’ll come – the earlier he’ll leave. He will not have Putin’s popularity, and no propaganda will be able to make him popular. Because when Putin came to power the economy was on the rise, and now it’s going down.

“The regime rests on the monetary cushion, which now can be calculated. It is enough to survive for three years. If oil prices fall further, then it will be used up in two and a half years. Next – the end!“

Romanova’s point of view is shared by very many Russians.

Updated: November 25, 2014 — 9:42 pm
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