Internal struggle for seats in a new cabinet that will be headed by Dmitry Medvedev is in full swing. This backdoor fight is accompanied by a series of news stories that contain leak of damaging information targeting figures in the outgoing cabinet of Vladimir Putin. Putin will be the prime minister until the 7 May 2012 when he is to be sworn in as Russia’s president, while incumbent president Dmitry Medvedev, as it was negotiated between the two, is expected to overtake the PM office. Media is now slinging mud at the people, whom Dmitry Medvedev’s clan does not want to see as the new cabinet members and whose positions they plan to feel with their own candidates.
A year ago Dmitry Medvedev’s retinue planned to topple Putin, but it turned out they put too much on their plate. When they realized that they could face the same fate as the group of Decembrists, who had revolted against the tsar in the beginning of the 19th century and had been exiled in Siberia or hanged, their revolutionary zeal disappeared.
‘West Will Help Us!’
The outgoing cabinet of Vladimir Putin has been recently linked to a major corruption scandal after the US and British security forces began an investigation into Putin’s senior deputy, Igor Shuvalov. US-based Democratic Russia Committee founder Natalia Pelevine, a Russian citizen living in New York, has already handed piles of documents containing evidence about the origins of the Shuvalovs’ fortunes to the FBI, and plans to send the paperwork to British Serious Fraud Office in the nearest future.
Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s Office has already studied Pelevine’s documents, but the prosecutors have not opened a criminal case for ‘the lack of crime’. Their decision has been appealed in Moscow’s Tverskoi court.
Pelevine obtained copies of agreements and bank records, showing that back in 2004, Shuvalov’s wife Olga had received $50 million from oligarch Abramovich’s companies through an offshore firm called Sevenkey. Then, Sevenkey lent this money to oligarch Usmanov’s companies, earning $70 million - a 40% annual interest rate. In 2008-2009, after Olga Shuvalova disclosed information about her income she turned out to be the richest wife of a Russian cabinet member. In 2008 her income exceeded 364 million roubles ($12 million, or roughly $40,000 a day), according to the tax return. That is more than the head of Apple earned for the same period. In 2009, Shuvalova’s income increased by almost twice up to 642 million roubles ($20 million).
Listen, if stars are lit, someone needs it, poet Vladimir Mayakovsky once said. The same is true for the media exposé of Shuvalov’s finances. It came to light just in time to damage his chances of entering Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet. There are influential contenders who can stop Shuvalov from making it into the government.
The Only Team That Can Save Russia
It is no secret that current presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich has put in a claim to replace Shuvalov. The Medvedev’s economic advisor has already secured his seat in the government. But the agreements should be reinforces by damaging his contender, say, with suggesting he is linked to corruption or discrediting him in the eyes of the world.
Other people in Medvedev’s inner circle are also interested in getting posts in the new cabinet. Besides Dvorkovich, they are Medvedev’s spokesperson Natalya Timakova and the presidential staff’s rewards and HR department head Sergei Dubnik. But chances are close to zero, said a knowledgeable source to Rumafia.com.
According to the source, Natalya Timakova hopes to get a culture portfolio. A new minister of culture is expected to also receive the powers to control Russian media. “It is ridiculous. Contenders who are much more influential than Timakova lined up for this post,” said the source. He was also skeptical about Sergei Dubik chances to replace current defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov and become the second civilian defense minister in Russia. “Dubik should be happy if he makes it into the new cabinet at all. He has made mess of his job. He might only expect to get a position in the PM’s apparatus”.
Before Timakova, it was popular TV hostess Tina Kandelaki who mused about getting the post of the culture minister. There is no harm in dreaming, as the Russians say.
Sources inside the Kremlin and the government told Rumafia.com, that Putin’s deputy Dmitry Kozak helps in reviewing the candidatures. However, the true powerbroker behind the process is Medvedev’s old friend and advisor Mikhail Trinoga. Trinoga keeps low profile with his name rarely mentioned by the media. However, he is a key figure in Dmitry Medvedev’s inner circle.
63-year-old Mikhail Trinoga began his career with late Viktor Chernomyrdin, influential PM under president Yeltsin. They both worked in the gas industry, and when in 1992 Chernomyrdin was appointed the PM, he made Trinoga deputy head of his apparatus. In 1998, Trinoga helped Chernomyrdin form Our Home - Russia political party. At that time, he was appointed deputy HR directorate of Gasprom. In 2000, Trinoga was invited to the government again. He was made deputy to the head of the governmental staff, Igor Shuvalov. For a short time, he worked as a deputy head of the presidential staff under Vladimir Putin. In 2005, prime minister Mikhail Fradkov made him advisor to Dmitry Medvedev, who was the first deputy PM.
Mikhail Trinoga served as Medvedev’s wise and experienced mentor, according to a source in the government. Medvedev took the old stager into his confidence, and got used to following Trinoga’s advice. “Trinoga is Medvedev’s right-hand man. He is a liberal. His political standpoint is close to that of Medvedev’s. Financial future of Trinoga, as well as his children up to the third generation, is secured. He has no personal interest in power struggle. For him, the fight under the carpet is just a hobby,” said the source.
Second Term for Dima
In 2009-2010, the wise old man came up with the idea that Medvedev should do his best to remain in the presidential office for the second term in 2012-2018. Trinoga’s timing was perfect. In spring-summer 2011, Vladimir Putin and his aide Igor Sechin’s positions were seriously damaged. They both had health problems. A source in the Kremlin told Rumafia.com that Sechin underwent lengthily cancer treatment. Putin suffered from a kidney disease. “Neither Putin, nor Sechin were able to fulfill all their duties, which cast doubts on their future as the country’s leaders,” said the source.
In this situation, Medvedev’s clan picked up Trinoga’s idea, at first Sergei Dubik, then Natalya Timakova and Arkady Dvorkovich. The three conspired to prepare financial, ideological and political ground to make it easier for Dmitry Medvedev to sack Putin as the prime minister.
According to a source in the government, Sergei Dubik was responsible for negotiations with the top brass and senior officials in the security forces, known in Russia as siloviki. As the head of cadre unit within the presidential staff, Dubik has picked candidates for the Internal Ministry, Russia’s Investigative Committee, Federal Drug Control Service and other law-enforcement agencies, as well as Defense Ministry, Federal Tax Service and judicial bodies. Dubik has enormous influence on general, top police officers, judges and other people wearing uniforms.
Timakova and Dvorkovich, under Trinoga’s watchful eye, were responsible for ideology, media campaign and finances of the Kremlin-conceived ‘revolution’. They employed Igor Yurgens, Igor Yusufov and Evgeny Gontmakher from the Institute of Contemporary Development, or INSOR, who became hyperactive in forming what Yusufov later called ‘pension fund’ for Medvedev by consolidating major businesses and assets, which could become a financial base for Medvedev’s campaign. Arkady Dvorkovich helped Yurgens and Yusufov to win the support of certain big time businessmen.
Many oligarchs, who are dissatisfied with the loss of power and control of financial flows under Putin, agreed to help the plotters, billionaire co-owners of Alfa Group and Alfa Bank Mikhail Fridman, German Khan and Petr Aven, together with Alisher Usmanov and Alexander Mamut, were among many who sponsored Medvedev’s second term scheme in 2012. Russia’s largest mass media outlets, including Kommersant and Vedomosti dailies, Ekho Moskvi radio, and Natalya Timakova’s friend Natalya Sindeeva’s Dozhd TV channel, all waged information campaign to hurt Putin.
Gontmakher, Natalya Timakova and her husband Alexander Budberg were the chief ideologists, who span anti-Putin campaign. Suddenly, Dmitry Medvedev began meeting with the country’s liberal intelligentsia, famous actors, musicians, writers and bloggers. Budberg and Timakova provided oppositional newsmakers with easy access to the mass media. Alexander Budberg’s friends Boris Nemtsov and Stanislav Belkovsky orchestrated the news coverage. For instance, Stanislav Belkovsky, a political annalist once close to the Kremlin, controlled his protégé and creature blogger Alexei Navalny, ‘anti-corruption blow-whistler’, who de facto became the face of the Russian mass protests in winter 2011/2012.
People of all sorts enlisted under Medvedev’s banners. It would be enough to mention that in 2010 the plotters sent a member of the parliament to fugitive oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky. According to a source close to Gusinsky, the question was put before the oligarch: under certain circumstances, how would he help Medvedev? The plotters also negotiated with the representatives of the western powers, including the USA.
Mobilization of Medvedev’s supporters was possible, because they shared common ideas of ‘liberalism’ and ‘true democracy’ that was the ideological basis. “These ideas appealed to many, because business and intelligentsia are fed up with siloviki, whom Putin supports,” the source in the government said to Rumafia.com. The plotters were ready to destroy their own family relations in order to pursue the plan. For instance, Natalya Timakova broke off with her husband Alexander Budberg, who considered too risky the idea of ‘pushing’ Medvedev into the presidential office for the second time and gave it up in autumn 2011. “To avenge herself, Timakov began an affair with one of the plotters, whose name I will not disclose,” said the source.
Back at the bottom of the ladder
‘Revolutionary zeal’ disappeared after the plotters talked to another shadowy figure close to Medvedev, General of Federal Protective Service Alexander Ponomarev. “When he learned about what happened, he openly told Medvedev and his team that they would have the same fate as the Decembrists and it was no use dreaming about Putin’s resignation. Dmitry Medvedev thought that Ponomarev was absolutely right and gave up the plans for the second term in January 2012. What remains of the plot is the ‘pension fund’, established by Yusufov. By the way, Putin was reported of what had happened, but he did not believe that Medvedev could plot against him, thinking that Medvedev’s retinue simply schemed for power,” said the source in the Kremlin.
By the way, the plotters let down a lot of influential figures. “Many businessman and representatives of intelligentsia believed them. They took part in Medvedev’s second term scheme and were sucked. Now they have to fix problems with Sechin and Putin”.