Staunton, April 25 – To save money, Vladimir Putin reportedly is planning to slash the number of siloviki and other federal agencies attached to the offices of the presidential plenipotentiaries in the federal districts he created during his first term, a step that will dramatically change relations between Moscow and the regions and republics of the country.
Anna Skalkina and Mariya Glebova of URA.ru reported yesterday that a Kremlin source has told them that Putin has decided that the country is stable enough to allow him to reduce or even eliminate the presence of force structures in the federal districts, thus saving money and allowing for direct Moscow rule (ura.ru/content/svrd/24-04-2014/articles/1036261946.html).
According to the URA.ru journalists, the Presidential Administration has decided to reduce by 30 percent the number of security personnel in the federal district bureaucracies. The decision was taken because of falling state revenues and because Russia’s activities in Crimea and Ukraine require a shift in resources.
The decision to cut the number of siloviki was taken some time ago, the journalists say, but a related decision to “liquidate” other federal structures in the federal districts was taken only on Wednesday. They report that Aleksandr Khinshteyn, a United Russia Duma deputy, has confirmed this on the record.
URA.ru says that these changes will be announced in six to eight weeks and that at that time, those employed in these structures will have to move elsewhere, quit the federal service or retire.
The agency’s unnamed Kremlin source said there were two reasons for this change now. On the one hand, the federal districts have succeeded in suppressing regional separatism “which was left to us after Yeltsin, making the presence of the siloviki in them unnecessary. He noted that the FSB had already made this change. And on the other, budgets are now much tighter.
This week’s decision, the source continued, will result in staff cuts of approximately 30 percent not only among interior ministry employees but also in the procuracy, magistracy, and emergency situations ministry. Some of those whose jobs are being eliminated will be sent to work in Crimea.
The representatives in federal districts of other federal agencies, including those supervising property, are also likely to be cut, the Kremlin source said, although he added that no decision on this has yet been taken. But one thing is clear: the federal districts and the presidential plenipotentiaries are going to face ever more staff cuts not growth.
As a result, experts told URA.ru, the regions will bear increasing responsibility for things that the federal districts had been involved in, and the Kremlin will intervene more frequently and more directly in their affairs. With time, that could make the federal districts superfluous, even though they continue to be presented as a major Putin innovation.
In the near term, some Moscow experts say, the presidential plenipotentiaries themselves may gain in influence in the center. They will now be Moscow’s exclusive eyes and ears in the regions and thus able to serve as a check and corrective to whatever the regions are reporting, URA.ru says, but it is unclear how well they will be able to do that with fewer staff.
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