Staunton, February 21 – There has always been speculation about the possibility that a power struggle is going on behind the scenes in the Kremlin. Such speculation has intensified as Russians have faced the prospect of some kind of transition in national leadership. But Andrey Illarionov says that Putin’s own words prove that such a fight is now taking place.
But while the Kremlin leader provides evidence that an opposition has emerged, he does not indicate who is part of it and thus forces analysts like himself to ask “who are these people?” what do they want? and what are their prospects? Questions for which there are as yet no clear answers (echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/2592140-echo/).
In his recent TASS interview (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/62835), Putin called attention to opposition within the Kremlin by a series of comments, Illarionov says. First, he indicated Dmitry Medvedev did not know in advance about his retirement, an indication that Putin was either forced to act or had to keep things very close hold.
Second, Putin said he had chosen the new prime minister not from the list he was given but independently, an indication that others in the Kremlin have a different agenda and different plans than he and that Putin has responded in this case as well by making his own choice. The opposition may not yet be able to force him to do what it wants but clearly it exists.
Third, in his remarks, Putin “distanced himself from the government stressing that this command is not his but that of Mishustin,” another indication of fissures within the upper echelons of the regime.
What does all this mean? According to Illarionov, it shows that “a group of comrades made a proposal to Putin to send Medvedev and his government into retirement, a proposal he couldn’t reject,” and that Putin had to fulfill it and couldn’t even tell Medvedev about it in advance, that “the group of comrades” came up with a list of replacements but Putin chose someone else.
Further, it means that “the amendments to the Constitution, which have attracted so much public attention, are being used above all as a smokescreen to cover up what is the most important thing” -- a struggle for real power within the Kremlin. What now must be determined is “who are these people?”