Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

#11 - JRL 7217
No 22
June 9 - 15, 2003
Author: Ilya Bulavinov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]



Air Force Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov has the most experience in the corridors of power; no other presidential advisor or assistant can match him for experience. Shaposhnikov has served presidents of Russia after resignation from the post of Soviet defense minister and a brief spell as commander of the CIS united armed forces. At one time or another he was secretary of the Security Council, representative of the president in Rosvooruzhenie, and even Aeroflot general director. Unlike many other senior civil servants, Shaposhnikov has an important quality: The ability to resign without a fuss when his superiors want it. Shaposhnikov resigned from the army to give room to Boris Yeltsin's new favorite, Pavel Grachev. He stepped down from the Security Council for the sake of Oleg Lobov. Shaposhnikov left Rosoboroneksport when proteges of omnipotent Alexander Korzhakov began taking the commanding heights and resigned from Aeroflot for the president's son-in-law Valery Okulov.

All this experience enables Shaposhnikov to assist the president without any visible effort. Witnesses say that Shaposhnikov never appears in his office more than once a week and that he never spends more then two or three hours at a stretch there.

Vladimir Shevchenko, Yeltsin's chief of protocol once, became Vladimir Putin's advisor on January 4, 2000. This was one of the first decrees Putin signed. If the truth were to be told, Shevchenko does not advise the president. He caters to Yeltsin in retirement instead. And since the Presidential Affairs Directorate essentially manages Yeltsin, the role of Shevchenko in the Kremlin is reduced to organization of contacts between presidential structures and the Number One Pensioner.

Igor Sergeev, the first and so far the only Marshal of the Russian Federation, became presidential advisor after resignation from the post of defense minister in March 2001. As defense minister, Sergeev was outplayed and outflanked by his subordinate, Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, and was marked for resignation to be succeeded by Sergei Ivanov, one of the closest associates of the president put in charge of reorganization of the army. Putin is not a man to dismiss honored or good personae and therefore he offered Sergeev the post of his assistant. There are the rumors that telling Sergeev that he should better start packing, Putin asked him to outline the range of problems he would like to deal with. Excited and not thinking straight, Sergeev replied, "Strategic stability matters." The president did not ask what that was supposed to mean, and that was that. Even now nobody knows what Sergeev meant by "strategic stability matters". Absolutely nothing is known about the ex-minister's participation in the work on any strategic matters.

Writer Anatoly Pristavkin is the least pensioner-like of the lot. In December 2001, the president made the matter of pardons a prerogative of the regions and promoted Pristavkin, ex-chairman of the presidential commission dealing with these matters, to the post of his adviser. Pristavkin was enraged, believing that the Federation subjects would follow the Kremlin's orders in all matters of pardon. After some months in the capacity of the presidential advisor, however, Pristavkin changed his mind all of a sudden. It happened in late 2002 when Pristavkin called a press conference to announce that the new system of pardons was in line with the advanced Western democracies and that the regions were doing a good job.

The state of affairs with two other presidential advisors may be appraised as a provisional exile from active politics to the president's reserve.

As soon as Putin established offices of his plenipotentiary representatives in federal regions in 2002, these offices and the presidential administration clashed in a vicious struggle for power. Presidential plenipotentiary representatives were particularly enraged by the fact that they were to be supervised by Sergei Samoilov, a "mere" head of the Main Territorial Directorate of the presidential administration. A compromise was eventually reached. The presidential administration retained all major supervising functions, and Samoilov became a sacrificial lamb. He was ousted from his position and offered the post of presidential advisor as a consolation.

Ex-commander of the Caucasus Military District Gennadi Troshev became another such exile this February. In late 2002, Defense Minister Ivanov decided to transfer Troshev, hero of both Chechen wars, to the Siberian Military District. There were the rumors in the Defense Ministry that either Troshev or his close relatives were dedicating too much time and effort to business ventures in the Caucasus. Troshev himself announced that "certain forces" feared transformation of the battle-hardened generals into politicians. In any case, Troshev refused to go to Chita claiming that he could not abandon his comrades in arms. Two days later he was relieved of his duties by the president for denunciation of orders. Troshev became presidential advisor for Cossacks not long after. He is certainly busy now, settling dispute between "registered" and "free" Cossacks and trying to come up with ideas on how they may be used in service to the state.

It seems that only three civil servants became presidential advisors in order to really advise Putin or help him.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky came presidential advisor "for information coordination of federal executive power structures involved in the counter-terrorism operation in the Caucasus and for contacts with the media" in January 2000. The promotion was unexpected. Kicked out of the presidential administration in 1998, the then presidential press secretary spent all the 1999 election fighting the Kremlin side by side with the presidential administration's number one enemy, Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov.

The Kremlin, however, failed to find a better "mouthpiece". Yastrzhembsky was forgiven and was put in charge of information on Chechnya. Yastrzhembsky wanted more than that and immediately began to expand his range of informational duties. He was even in charge of organization of the international press center in celebrations of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg not so long ago. In short, Yastrzhembsky put himself in charge of absolutely everything he could beg, borrow, or steal from the presidential press service and press secretary. (By the way, Presidential Press Secretary is Alexei Gromov, Yastrzhembsky's old pal.) Unfortunately for Yastrzhembsky, Director of the Presidential Administration Alexander Voloshin sided up with Gromov, thus preventing Yastrzhembsky from exploiting his previous successes.

Andrei Illarionov became presidential economic advisor in April 2000. According to the rumors, Pyotr Aven of the Alpha-Bank introduced him to Putin and the suggestion to make him economic advisor came from Voloshin. There are the rumors as well that Minister of Economic Development Herman Gref promoted his career some. Economist Illarionov had supposedly attracted their attention by his paradoxical speeches at the Center of Strategic Surveys Gref managed in 2000.

Illarionov aspires for a key position in determination of the economic policy of the state. He frequently succeeds. In 2001, Illarionov forced the government to pay back state debts in full and ahead of the timetable.

Major General Alexander Burutin was little known to general public as head of one of the major structures of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff dealing with matters of development and application of branches of the uniformed service. In any case, Burutin became presidential advisor for military-technical policy in April 2003. Necessity of this particular post has been in the wind for a long time. A lot of men involved in arms manufacture or export aspired for it. The president, however, chose a man on the side, someone he hoped (or knew) was not involved in the conflict of interests.

Putin and Burutin met in March 2002 when the president was skiing on Sobolinaya Mountain by day and meeting with scientists and specialists afterwards. That was when Burutin, 46, was introduced to the president. Putin must have been impressed by the relatively young general and decided to promote him. Unless Burutin makes a mess of the president's first impression of him, he may eventually become the decision-maker in the sphere of military-technical policy. And this is a sphere that is not restricted to reorganization of the military- industrial complex alone. It also includes the state defense order and arms export.

(Translated by A. Ignatkin)

Top   Next