Staunton, June 17 – The sudden hospitalization of Daghestan head Vladimir Vasiliyev after he has gotten in hot water for problems with the Chechen border and an independent journalist is prompting speculation that this Putin favorite may be on the way out (doshdu.com/2019/06/17/новым-главой-дагестана-могут-назначи/).
Vasiliyev, 69, an outsider whom Moscow imposed on Makhachkala in 2017 to bring order to the most multi-ethnic and most Islamic republic within the Russian Federation, has generally been celebrated for his political skills; but recently he has had serious problems (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/06/chechen-daghestan-border-controversy.html).
Consequently, his hospitalization in Moscow reportedly for pneumonia (doshdu.com/2019/06/17/главу-дагестана-экстренно-госпитали/) has led to speculation that this may be a diplomatic illness and the occasion for a transition in Daghestan. If that is so, the odds’ on favorite to succeed him is Sergey Melikov, the first deputy head of the Russian Guard.
Should Melikov, 53, become head of Daghestan, not only would he be an ethnic Russian ruling over a non-Russian republic but he would truly be “a governor general,” an arrangement that many commentators have suggested should be revived by Moscow to rule distant and unruly parts of the empire (e.g., ria.ru/20190215/1550894792.html).
The reason Melikov is being tipped for the job is not only his current work as head of the Kremlin’s praetorian guard but also his earlier actions as presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus Federal District (2014-2016) and earlier as the general in command of Russian military forces in that region.
Such an appointment would make sense given how restive Daghestan remains, but it would also highlight the Kremlin’s concerns about control of that region and send a message to other non-Russian republics and to outlying ethnic Russian regions that the center now wants to restore an even more traditional form of rule than the one by outsiders it has used in recent years.