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Who runs Russia with Putin?


When Vladimir Putin first came to power, he was asked in an interview which of his colleagues he trusted most.

He named five people:

Fifteen years later, these men still form President Putin’s core group and dominate the strategic heights of Russian government and big business:

  • Mr Patrushev was director of the FSB internal security service from 1999 until his appointment as Secretary of the Russian security council in 2008
  • Mr Ivanov has been Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Since 2011, he has been head of the presidential administration
  • Mr Medvedev was President from 2008-12, forming part of the ruling “tandem” with Mr Putin, and is now Prime Minister
  • Mr Kudrin, Finance Minister until 2011, no longer holds a formal position but still appears to offer advice to the president on financial and economic matters
  • Mr Sechin, who has held senior positions in the presidential administration and government, is chief executive of Rosneft, the state oil company

This core group illustrates two important points about who runs Russia.

First, there has been continuity in terms of the personnel closest to Mr Putin. Real reshuffles are rare, and very few have been evicted from this core group.

Second, the heart of the leadership team is made up of allies who served with Mr Putin in the KGB, in 1990s St Petersburg, or both.

This core group also includes others whom the president trusts to implement major infrastructure projects, such as Arkady Rotenberg, one of those responsible for the Sochi Winter Olympics, as well as several regional figures and senior bureaucrats.

Many of these figures held senior positions even before Mr Putin’s rise to power.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, formerly Minister of Emergency Situations, was a prominent party political figure in the second half of the 1990s and leader of the United Russia party from 2001-05.

Such figures convene in the security council, one of the most important organisations for co-ordinating high-level decision-making and resources.

At the same time, the Russian administrative system – the so-called vertical of power – does not function well: policy instructions are often implemented tardily and sometimes not at all, so others have important roles helping develop and implement projects.

One such individual is Yuri Trutnev, elected as a regional governor in 2000, and then appointed Minister for Natural Resources and Ecology in 2004.

In 2013, he was promoted to Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Plenipotentiary to the Russian Far Eastern Federal District, a high priority post for Mr Putin.


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