In Russia, everybody is utilized to the reality the administration’s situation on intense political, social, and even social issues doesn’t originate from the offices that should be liable for these undertakings. The Kremlin consistently has the final word. Intermittently this doesn’t mean President Vladimir Putin himself, yet rather agents from his Presidential Executive Office. To get a more full comprehension of what Putin’s organization does, we asked “Meduza” political journalist Andrey Pertsev to separate the what precisely the Presidential Executive Office is, the extent of its formal (and casual) obligations, and the constraints of its impact over what occurs in Russia.
Russian political columnists regularly allude to the “Kremlin” as shorthand for the Presidential Executive Office of Russia (additionally alluded to as the Presidential Administration of Russia, which in Russian is abbreviated to the abbreviation “AP”). The Moscow Kremlin turned into the official home of the nation’s top authority very quickly after the October Revolution in 1917. What’s more, the Russian Federation proceeded with this convention after the Soviet Union fell; the Kremlin Senate houses Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office.
The Presidential Executive Office itself is really situated in a complex of structures in another piece of town: in Staraya Square in the eastern piece of Moscow’s Kitay Gorod area. As a previous authority from the Presidential Executive Office reviewed in discussion with Meduza, the AP’s workplaces used to be situated inside the Kremlin’s purported “fourteenth structure.” When this structure was wrecked, it moved to Number Four Staraya Square.
The Presidential Executive Office of Russia was set up under Boris Yeltsin in 1991. Nonetheless, the arrangements administering its work didn’t come out until 1993. A refreshed rendition of these guidelines from 1996 states that the AP “makes the conditions” for the president to decide the fundamental headings of homegrown and international strategy, resolve staff issues, and guarantee the “organized working” of collections of intensity. This scope of obligations is additionally delineated in the current guidelines on the official organization, which go back to 2004. These additionally express that the AP “practices control” over the execution of the president’s choice.
Furthermore, the Presidential Executive Office is liable for setting up the top of state’s yearly location and the draft laws the president brings to parliament, “supporting cooperation with ideological groups,” gathering and investigating data “on financial, political, and lawful cycles in the nation and abroad,” just as “sorting out logical examination work, incorporating with the inclusion of specialists.”
Officially, the Presidential Executive Office is truly the top of state’s working office. Be that as it may, the more powers the Russian president has by and by — either officially or casually — the more compelling the AP becomes.
A few Meduza sources working in or near individuals in the official organization guarantee that the AP turned into a “operational hub” with a created inner political alliance at some point between the early and mid-2000s. This occurred affected by then-First Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov, who made a political framework oversaw legitimately from inside the Kremlin. Because of Putin’s own prevalence, the decision party, United Russia, accomplished incredible outcomes during parliamentary races (Putin was the gathering’s administrator from 2008–2012 and was then supplanted by Dmitry Medvedev). Under implicit principles, foundational resistance groups (for instance the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party) were additionally needed to talk with the AP — for instance, when arranging applicant selections.
Despite the fact that Surkov’s function in administering Russian governmental issues was a notable mystery, the main individual to talk about it openly was financial specialist Mikhail Prokhorov, who, in front of the 2011 parliamentary decisions, was driving the gathering Pravoye Delo (Right Cause). Prokhorov considered Vladislav Surkov the “primary manikin ace of the political cycle” and blamed him for endeavoring to impact the development of gathering records.
Under Surkov’s replacement, First Deputy Chief of Staff Vyacheslav Volodin, the organization’s impact on foundational resistance groups just expanded. Delegates from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), and A Just Russia started running as competitors in gubernatorial races (which were somewhat once again introduced in Russia in 2012). In reality, these up-and-comers were chosen inside the AP. Simultaneously, huge organizations could settle on concurrences with Putin straightforwardly on designating their proteges as lead representatives.
The official organization likewise holds influence over youth strategy and participation with the common society activists faithful to the specialists; this is managed by its public ventures office under the authority of Sergey Novikov, a long-lasting partner of the current First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko.
Nonetheless, the Presidential Executive Office’s close to boundless force in the public arrangement circle doesn’t imply that it’s truly all-powerful. For instance, the AP doesn’t run the administration and isn’t associated with choosing possibility for bureau. Many key choices on the economy and money, and with respect to law authorization organizations, are made during gatherings of the Security Council. It’s useful to envision the Security Council, which incorporates some of the nation’s key figures, as a sort of top managerial staff; a similarity that by and by makes the AP an overseeing office.
The Presidential Executive Office is comprised of around 20 offices, including the Security Council Office, the Presidential Advisers’ Office, and the Presidential Chancellery. The current Chief of Staff is Anton Vaino and there are two First Deputy Chiefs of Staff, Sergey Kiriyenko and Alexey Gromov. The official agents to the government locale, the State Duma, the Federation Council, and the Constitutional Court are likewise important for Putin’s organization.
The AP additionally has nine official associates on staff (three of whom likewise head divisions), who are liable for planning proposition and examination for the president with respect to the regions that they direct. Regularly, these associates are previous prominent authorities. For instance, among the current official associates are previous Transport Minister Igor Levitin, previous Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, and previous Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin. Andrey Belousov, who filled in as Russia’s Economic Development Minister from 2012 until 2013, was Putin’s assistant for almost seven years — he at that point got back to the bureau as First Deputy Prime Minister.
Moreover, the president has six consultants, including the Chairman of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, Valery Fadeev. Youngsters’ Rights Commissioner Anna Kuznetsova is likewise important for the AP, alongside Business Ombudsman Boris Titov, and the Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology, and Transport, Sergey Ivanov.
Figures possessing public positions —, for example, the top of the Human Rights Council and the Children’s Rights Commissioner — have gotten discernibly more moderate and faithful to the experts lately.
The Presidential Executive Office has a formal hierarchy subordinate to its Chief of Staff, however, a source close to the administration describes Anton Vaino as the “first among equals.” “It was always like this. Yes, the chief of the AP is the leader but, in effect, everything is tied to the president himself. The AP’s deputy chiefs can make independent decisions within their competences,” explains a former Kremlin official. “Yes, the short-list of candidates for governor goes through the domestic policy department, then through the first deputy head of politics, and then is agreed upon with the chief. But without the approval of the politics deputy, the chief can’t carry out his own decision, for example, to ‘push’ a senator. The relevant deputy can outmaneuver the decision, he has access to the president.”
According to the source, in reality, the status and influence of each presidential aide and adviser depends on their individual relationship with Putin. “If a person has direct access to the president [and] the opportunity to enter the cabinet at his request at any time, [whether] they’re an adviser or an aide isn’t so important.”
The AP has a Foreign Policy Directorate, which is not to be confused with Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. According to Meduza’s Kremlin source, presidential aide Yuri Ushakov is in charge of the AP’s foreign policy department. “The directorate and Ushakov deal with issues that concern Putin directly. The organization of his visits, the organization of forums involving the president within Russia. The Foreign Affairs Ministry [handles] routine matters — regular meetings of international bodies, some routine statements. Although, for example, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speeches are still sent to the AP,” the source explained.
Pro-Kremlin propaganda on television and from major, state-owned media outlets is carried out by subordinates under First Deputy Chief of Staff Alexey Gromov. Several sources told Meduzathat Gromov holds weekly meetings with the heads of the press services at key government agencies, whose reports in turn act as sources for the rest of the news media. During these briefings, Gromov outlines the main topics for the week ahead and provides guidance on how to present the government’s agenda “correctly.”
“When it comes to statements about important news events that arise unexpectedly, press service directors coordinate directly with [the head of the presidential administration’s public relations and communications department Alexander] Smirnov or even with Gromov personally,” Meduza’s source said. Gromov holds similar meetings with the heads of major traditional media outlets. “If there’s an urgent, topical issue he can call some editor-in-chief personally and he often does so,” a source close to the AP said.
On the other hand, attacks on the opposition on social networks and messaging platforms are the sphere of the AP’s domestic policy bloc under the leadership of First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko. However, Gromov also has groups (“nets”) of Telegram channels that are loyal to him.
Kremlin officials do not and cannot have a coordinated view on all issues. Each bloc and department has its own area of responsibility that it cannot go beyond. “For example, Vyacheslav Volodin, was he was the AP’s first deputy chief and domestic policy curator, could have had his own views — for example, on policy regarding Ukraine and the self-proclaimed republics of Donbas. But Vladislav Surkov oversaw this area as a presidential aide, so Volodin couldn’t interfere,” a Meduza source who worked in the AP in the early 2010s explained.
In reporting on Russia, the phrase “the Kremlin thinks” is more or less a journalistic cliché. Officials from the president’s office often share their own views, which don’t necessarily reflect a position agreed upon with the entire AP or Putin himself. “Often in some of his answers to journalists’ questions Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov also says that this is his personal opinion,” Meduza’s source underscored.
Russian media and Telegram channels often uses the phrase “tower wars” to describe political in-fighting among influential groups with the Putin administration. You’ll also hear people say “the Kremlin has many towers,” referring to the number of rival groups. For example, it’s believed that the “Kovalchuk group” opposes the “Rotenberg group,” whereas the FSB doesn’t get along so well with the Interior Ministry. These rival groups can compete for spheres of influence, positions in the federal government, and for the governorships of major regions. Sometimes, traces of these struggles come into public view.
However, there’s an informal understanding that Kremlin officials shouldn’t get involved in lobbying battles themselves and are required to stay above these conflicts — regardless of the fact that they might be close to one of the groups involved (for example, Sergey Kiriyenko is considered closed to the “Kovalchuk group”). “In any case, all of [the Kremlin’s] decisions on serious issues are collegial and coordinated. The final decision is up to the president, but the agreed upon point of view goes to him for approval,” Meduza’s Kremlin source explained.
Nevertheless, conflicts can emerge among officials with overlapping spheres of influence. For example, media curator/First Deputy Chief of Staff Alexey Gromov has always had a tense relationship with the AP’s domestic policy curators, since the media also falls within the domestic policy bloc’s area of responsibility.
For a long time, there was also covert competition between Sergey Kiriyenko and State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who didn’t want to hand over the levers of political influence — first and foremost, United Russia — to Kiriyenko completely. The fight ended predictably with Volodin’s people leaving key posts within the ruling party. The Kremlin’s number one rule worked: each member of the “power vertical” handles the sphere that Vladimir Putin has set out for them.