August 5, 2016

Staff Changes in the Russian Governance — the Reasons and Possible Consequences for Ukraine

Ivan Sichen, Military and Political Expert

In late July, 2016, President of the Russian Federation V. Putin chaired regular personnel changes at all levels of the Russian governance — from the federal center to the regions, as well as in the occupied Crimea.

So, the following officials were fired, transferred or in some cases arrested:

Chief of the Federal Customs Service A. Belianinov (on charges of involvement in the corruption scandal). He was replaced by the Permanent Representative of the Russian President in the North-Western Federal District (NWFD) V. Bulavin. In his turn, the latter's post was given to the Governor of Kaliningrad Region N. Tsukanov. The new chief of the most western territory of Russia became the Chief of the Territorial Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation E. Zinichev;

Kirov Region Governor N. Belykh (due to loss of confidence on the part of V. Putin) was arrested. The acting head of the region is now the former head of the “Rosreestr” I. Vasiliev;

the head of the Yaroslavl Region S. Yastrebov was replaced by former Deputy Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs D. Mironov (transferred to the civil service);

Presidential Envoy in the so-called Crimean Federal District O. Belaventsev — became curator of the North Caucasus Federal District of Russia. Former V. Putin's representative in the North Caucasus S. Melikov was appointed First Deputy Commander of the “Rosnatsgvardia”;

The so-called Governor of Sevastopol S. Menyailo was sent as the President's Representative into Siberian Federal District. He was replaced by D. Ovsyannikov — former Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation;

Russian Ambassador to Ukraine M. Zurabov, instead of whom Moscow offered us another native of the FSB — M. Babich.

Staff Changes in the Russian Governance

According to official explanations of the Russian Federation's leadership, these changes are of routine nature and are aimed at strengthening and improving the efficiency of the system of governance, removal of regional tensions, as well as improving interaction between the Federal Center and the subjects of the Federation. At this, they use the principle of rotation and succession of power through the promotion of officials from the local to the regional and then — to the federal level.

At the same time, analysis of the situation in Russia and the Kremlin's policy suggests a conclusion about deeper reasons for personnel changes in the structure of the Russian governance. The above-mentioned is being done by V. Putin to ensure the capacity to address new vital challenges or those that he may face.

These problems first of all include:

Firstly, worsening socio-economic situation in Russia under the influence of Western sanctions, which leads to increased protesting moods in the Russian society. The above-mentioned can cause the emergence and spread of mass social unrest in the Russian Federation, particularly in case of the Russian authorities' attempts to falsify the results of the elections to the State Duma in the country this autumn. According to Western experts, such actions could have a significantly larger scale than in 2012, which requires from the Kremlin to take preventive measures to retain their positions in power. Besides, this is also being done with a view to the next presidential elections in the country, which are scheduled for autumn 2018;

secondly, the emergence of internal opposition to V. Putin's regime from some oligarchic circles unhappy with the loss of business as a result of Russia's anti-Western policy. This trend is hidden, but can acquire actualization in the course of further complications of the economic situation in the country. In this regard, staff rotation has to prevent creation of sustainable anti-Putin groups in the Russian regional authorities;

thirdly, Moscow's losing control over a significant part of financial flows both in the center and in the regions of the country as a result of the widely spread corruption in the Russian government. According to the investigating authorities of the Russian Federation, corruption schemes cover about 20 % of GDP. This problem is of particular importance for the Kremlin in the situation of a reduction of revenues from businesses controlled by it, mainly in oil and gas exports. In particular, according to some political analysts, with this was connected the changing of the Crimean leaders who were involved in the theft of budget funds allocated for solution of socio-economic problems of the Peninsula;

fourthly, the delay in time of the armed conflict in the East of Ukraine, which creates greater and greater problems for Russia itself. Under these circumstances V. Putin's regime may take radical measures to deal with the “Ukrainian issue”, including organizing a coup in Ukraine, or a full-scale offensive in the Donbas.


The evidence of the relevance of the above-mentioned questions to the Russian leadership is the “chekist” past of most of those who were appointed to the vacancies, despite the lack of the necessary management experience. In fact, such personnel “closes” the most critical areas that create major difficulties for the Kremlin. According to Russian experts, this trend will become further spread and will lead to a complete reformatting of the governance system of the country.

M. BabichIn this context, the most illustratory is the personality of M. Babich, who was proposed by the Russian side to the position of Ambassador to Ukraine. Thus, representatives of the Russian opposition openly call him “enforcer” from the FSB, who had to become the chief coordinator of the Russian special services operating in Ukraine. At this, the main aim of such actions is organization of early parliamentary elections in Ukraine already this autumn. And this had to be M. Babich's main task as he already has great experience in rigging local elections in Russia, as well as tin clan struggle, intimidation, “redistribution” of business and financial flows.

This experience has been gained by M. Babich in posts of the Russian President's Representative in the Volga Federal District, the Heads of Governments of Moscow and Ivanovo regions and especially in Chechnya, where he had been “put in charge to see after Kadyrov”. Thanks to M. Babich, any anti-Putin opposition activity was completely suppressed in those regions, as well as was ensured the victory of the “United Russia” Party's victory in the elections.

While in high posts in special units of the KGB and the FSB of Russia, M. Babich got experience in conducting special operations, which is especially needed by V. Putin in terms of the Kremlin's implementation of its intentions to destabilize the situation in Ukraine at a large scale.

All this explains Moscow's bluntly hysterical reaction to Ukraine's refusal to accept M. Babich as Russian Ambassador in our Country. The most openly the Kremlin's opinion on this issue was demonstrated by the Russian newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda” of August 3, 2016. According to the Russian apologists of V. Putin's regime, “...this decision of Poroshenko's breaks last ties between Ukraine and Russia, and in fact confirms the state of war between the two countries”. At this, the newspaper expresses open threats against the President of Ukraine, who allegedly “has signed his own death warrant...” and “...has lost any opportunity to restore relations between Ukraine and Russia, which will be established by his successors in the post of the head of the state”.


So, the above-mentioned V. Putin's regime's staff actions allow it to temporarily solve its problems, or at least to postpone their solving.

However, the Russian President's apparent distrust to his powerful representatives at all levels, confirms the presence of a deep systemic crisis in the leadership of the Russian Federation, which is a consequence of the global problems in the entire Russian state system created by V. Putin.