A wave of preventive purges: Putin’s anti-coup strategy

The reorganization of the internal security forces, the substitutions of plenipotentiaries for the Crimea and the Caucasus, the arrest of governors and mayors, the promotion of loyalists. Here's how Putin secures a possible coup in Turkey style.

We had said in the aftermath of the failed coup turkish. That if there was something that Putin can learn from Erdoğan, it wouldn’t come from the coup itself, but from the purges that followed after. Many observers are noting that Russia and Turkey resemble more and more each other, two less and less democratic and increasingly autocratic systems in the hands of the two strong leaders. Some say Erdoğan has taken the Putinism as a model for his country, while others think that Putin took a cue from the Turkish crackdown on the opposition and media. What is certain is that the Russian president is one who likes to play in advance. And in fact, it has already begun to clean up the system.

The rise of the Siloviki?

Just in a few days, the head of the Federal Customs Service, Andrei Belyaninov, was forced to resign after his house had been searched by the FSB; three senior officers of the powerful Investigative Committee, including the rising star and deputy director of the Moscow section, Denis Nikandrov, were arrested; and in just one day, July 28, four new regional governors – Sevastopol, Kaliningrad, Yaroslavl and Kirov – have been appointed.

At the same time, the plenipotentiary envoy for the district of Crimea, Oleg Belaventsev, has been moved to the North Caucasus region, taking the place of Sergey Melikov. The latter was appointed deputy head of the new National Guard, under the newly appointed head Viktor Zolotov, former commander of internal forces and former head of Putin's personal security. Finally, Mikhail Zurabov was removed from the post of Ambassador to Ukraine. Commenting on the appointment of governors, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the choice was made by Putin himself. But there is little to think it's more the will of the president behind all the shuffling of cards.

Cleaning at the highest levels of the Russian government had a sudden acceleration in recent weeks, but did not begin yesterday. In recent months, the governor of the Tula region has been replaced, while the regions of Kirov and Sakhalin ended up in handcuffs on charges of bribery. And ounting even the lower ranks, from officials to mayors, arrests and dismissals are several dozen this year. The charge is always the same: bribery. A classic of the purges, a weapon of selective justice that guarantees success in a country where corruption is endemic at all levels.

... or Putin's power vertical?

For someone who falls from grace there is at least one rising. So, the command of the regions of Tula, Kaliningrad and Yaroslavl was given to three Siloviki, men with a past in the intelligence services of the KGB and then the FSB, just like Putin: Alexey Dyumin, Yevgeny Zinichev and Dmitry Mironov. And the new head of customs, Vladimir Bulavin, makes no exception as a former KGB official.

Mark Galeotti, acute observer of the Kremlin, noted that the so-called rise of the Siloviki is not so true. First it is by no means a novelty that Putin chooses his men in the Fsb. In addition, many of the new appointed, even with a past in the intelligence services, already had high rank positions in other institutions. Like Mironov who leaves the post of Deputy Minister of Interior, Igor Vasilev, going to the Kirov region from the direction of Rosreestr (the real estate and cadaster agency) and Dmitry Ovsyannikov, neo governor of Sevastopol and former Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry. "Putin is indeed looking to remont, to repair the Power Vertical and he may look first to the siloviki for the human resources he needs", Galeotti wrote.

And this is perhaps the most important fact, because apart from belonging to the circle of Siloviki – also Belyaninov was one of them – the loyalty to Putin seems to be the driving criterion of new choices.

Tatyana Stanovaya, a political analyst with years of experience, wrote that after the carousel of nominations "the structures which continue to be Putin’s personal support are dramatically gaining political momentum, namely the FSB and the National Guard of Russia. Secondly, structures managed by the heads of ‘the second tier’ become weaker; the MIA is now much weaker".

The goal of Putin, in short, is always the same: to balance the role of the main antagonistic internal forces, so that none of them gets enough power into its own hands. Perhaps it is no coincidence that this reshuffle takes place a few days after the coup in Turkey.


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