Staunton, June 18 – Until January 2020, governors in the good books of the Kremlin could count on a certain deference from siloviki. As long as the regional leaders did what they were supposed to, they could generally avoid having their subordinates attacked by the force structures, Yevgeny Minchenko says.
That changed, the director of the International Institute of Political Expertise, 18 months ago when all the siloviki institutions were placed under the direct control of the FSB. Now, even governors favored by the Kremlin can’t count on them to avoid attacking their subordinates (znak.com/2021-06-16/siloviki_zahvatyvayut_vlast_v_rossiyskih_regionah_tri_yarkih_primera).
That makes it very difficult for the governors to maintain control over the situation in their regions and almost impossible for them to conduct the pro-Kremlin election campaigns Moscow insists upon. Instead, the best they can do, Minchenko continues, proceed with caution, keep talking to the siloviki, and constantly monitor the situation.
According to the political analyst, this arrangement is nearly universal. The only exceptions are in Moscow, Tatarstan, and Chechnya, and partially in Tula and St. Petersburg. But Minchenko says that there are already questions about how long the leaders of these regions will be able to maintain themselves against concerted action by the siloviki.
In reporting Minchenko’s conclusion, Znak journalist Olga Balyuk details what has happened in Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsky and Orenburg oblasts in recent months, where officials close to governors in good odor with the Kremlin have nonetheless been subject to raids and arrests. She says that what is taking place in these three is also taking place elsewhere.
If Minchenko is right, the Kremlin has decided to use the siloviki to further weaken the governors as a potential source of independent power and influence, something that if it succeeds will further weaken the regions and their leaders but also open the way to those who argue that working within the system even at the regional level is the best way to go.
And because this change has not been universal and immediate but selective and gradual, it is not unlikely that at least some regional heads will try to take actions in the coming weeks to block this siloviki onslaught, something that could further exacerbate existing divisions within the Russia elite.