Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has been removed from his post, and given a new role in the Russian government.
BBC’s Richard Conway had reported Mutko’s potential transfer last week:
And Conway’s sources were correct. Yesterday, President Putin named Mutko his 9th Deputy Prime Minister. Mutko’s portfolio will be that of sports, youth, and tourism.
In theory this would give Mutko more power because the more you are responsible for, the more rents you can extract. So rather than just getting kickbacks for sports, he can now take kickbacks for youth and tourism. And he can also give out more favors to more people. And I think that is why the Western media and analysts are reporting this as a promotion. But those of you who have been reading me for awhile know that I don’t view these moves as anything but lateral transfers. Because titles are not usually a true reflection of responsibilities and placement in the hierarchy.
Anton Orekh writes in Ekho Moskvy:
It is possible to simultaneously promote a person and send him to the bench. We can say this, since we are talking about sports. The appointment of Mutko to Deputy Prime Minister formally raises him in the hierarchy, but in fact, it is unclear [if this is the case]. The position may be purely nominal. Only Mutko himself became a living anecdote.
A chief might be good or bad, but should not be funny. Mutko sometimes says sensible things, and puts forward some interesting ideas, but all of this is drowned out by his eccentricities and flows of rambling verbiage.
But the truth is that Mutko had to be sacked after the Olympics, because of what happened at Rio, Orekh continues.
Sport is a showcase of Putin’s rule, because apart from sporting victories, and the bombing of Syria, we have nothing to boast of.
And with the doping scandal, he writes, “it was Mutko who primarily demonstrated a complete inability to accurately respond to the situation. Every time he was late, not by a step, but by a hundred paces. He constantly answered at random, was unable to give at least some explanation. And each new scandal was a surprise for him. He did not even have to come up with the role of scapegoat, because he chose [to take on] this role himself.”
But to sack Mutko would have been to admit that Russia was guilty, and so that option was impossible. But it was equally impossible to allow him to keep his position as Sports Minister.
“However, you could do worse: to merge into one the Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy. That is three completely different areas of activity. It is somehow believed that sport is for young people. That tourists do sports. That young people are constantly traveling with dumbbells and skipping ropes. But, thank God, that did not happen.”
Instead it all went under “the duties of the new Deputy Prime Minister. And in this sense, the appointment of Mutko was the correct one.”
And the Sports Minister will be Pavel Kolobkov. Who performed a lot of draft organizational work, and if something in the Ministry was sensible, it was largely thanks to Kolobkov. And foreign “partners”, so to speak, are not allergic to him.”
And if Mutko will leave Kolobkov alone to get on with his work, Orekh concludes, “the current reshuffle can be evaluated as a solid four.”