Churchill once described Russian politics “like watching two dogs fighting under a carpet”, and decades later this is still an apt description. We have heard a few stories this week that seem to indicate that power struggles are going on in the Kremlin for power and resources.
First, LifeNews, a pro-Kremlin news organization with close ties to the security services (they always seem to be in the right place at just the right time) was raided by the police after a complaint was filed against it for allegedly filming under-age children and revealing their identities.
Brian Whitmore at Radio Free Europe thought that this could signal some power struggle in the Kremlin with Vladislav Surkov orchestrating (the complaint had come from the wife of a man believed to be Surkov’s right-hand man).
More details here:
However, in a tweet, the secretive account, Shaltay Boltay, said that the incident was just another indicator of a fight over funds for what they called “the manual media” (that is, the media that is supported and controlled by the state):
Stanislav Belkovsky agreed with this assessment, calling the raid a “business dispute”.
The other piece of information that Belkovsky dropped into the interview was that Vladislav Surkov is leaking information to the Caucasus Emirate website, Kavkaz Center.
This claim may or may not be true, but there was a rumor several years ago (that has never really died) that the insurgency in the Caucasus was getting information from the GRU (Russian military intelligence), or some other Russian security agency.
In the meantime, two Kremlin officials were sacked by Putin on Monday.
There is some debate going on right now on Twitter about how significant this move was, but any movement of officials should not be dismissed as routine.
Thirdly, the President of Tatarstan has resigned in advance of scheduled elections in September (as required by Russian law).
He will retain his position with the added caveat of “acting” in front of his title. At the moment, this seems like it is just following precedent. However, 6 months seems a long time to wait to hold an election. For comparison, the Russian constitution states that an election must be held within 12 weeks of a President’s resignation or death.
Putin’s health also seems to be an issue, and that may be playing into some of this too. With people testing the limits of how far they can go and what they can get away with.
As I have written previously, all of this is highly reminiscent of the 2007 in-fighting that took place before Putin had announced his successor in Dmitri Medvedev. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in the end.