22/09/2020

A remarkable amount is being changed for one thing to stay the same

As far as Russias domestic politics go, there is perhaps only one day in the last 10 years that could claim to match the drama of yesterdays developments.
That day, 26 September 2011, was when Dmitry Medvedev announced he was stepping aside for Vladimir Putin to return to the presidency. 
Aides had pushed for Mr Medvedev to stay on, and Mr Putin was reportedly anxious that his associate would run a second time. But Mr Medvedev fell in line, swapped jobs with the then notional prime minister, and the rest is history. 
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Yesterday, Mr Medvedev found out that politics is no sentimental game Kremlin bulldog-under-the-carpet politics even less so and was unceremoniously demoted from frontline politics to a position that didnt even exist.  
That was not before an equally dramatic moment that saw the long-time president propose ripping up chunks of the Russian constitution. 
Mr Putins proposed changes will massively tilt the balance of power away from the president, towards parliament and a newly beefed-up State Council, a federal governing body with limited current authority. The lower parliament will gain rights to choose the prime minister and cabinet; the upper chamber will have its say over security and judicial appointments. The president will also only be allowed to serve a total of two terms before, this was two consecutive terms. 
Other proposals would see new restrictions on who can ballot for the presidency, and on the jurisdiction of international courts like the European Court of Human Rights.
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20 years of Putin
1/21 1999
Russian President Boris Yeltsin (R) poses with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Alexei II (L) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (C) at the Kremlin in Moscow 31 December 1999. Yeltsin announced 31 December 1999 that he was resigning immediately and that Putin, according to the Russian constitution, would run the country as acting president until presidential elections in March 2000.
2/21 2000
Russian President Vladimir Putin poses with his wife Lyudmila in front of the Taj Mahal 04 October 2000. Putin is on a three-day visit to India.
3/21 2001
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President George W. Bush (R) smile following press conference at Crawford High School in Crawford, Texas 15 November 2001. Presidents Putin and Bush spoke about their meeting at the Bush ranch at a press conference at Crawford High School.
4/21 2002
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) discuss as they walk in the residence of Zavidovo , in the Tver region, some 120 km north-west of Moscow, as Cherie Blair (C) and Lyudmila Putina (not pictured) follow them 11 October 2002. Tony Blair arrived in Russia for two days of face-to-face talks with President Vladimir Putin on fresh UN action to force Iraq to give up weapons of mass destruction.
5/21 2003
Russian President Vladimir Putin is accompanied by Her Majesty The Queen during a procession at The Mallat during the start iof his state visit on June 24, 2003 in London, England. Putin is on a 4 days visit in Great Britain and will attend a number of functions during his time in the country. The visit is the first by a Russian President since 1843.
6/21 2004
President Vladimir Putin pets his dog Conny before one of his meetings with officials in his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, 03 March 2004. Putin met Wednesday with his nominee for prime minister, Mikhail Fradkov, and expressed hope that the government and parliament would work closely in the future. At left is a bodyguard.
7/21 2005
Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during the recording of his annual televised New Year’s message at the Kremlin, with the Spassky Tower in the background, in Moscow, recorded early, 29 December 2005.
8/21 2006
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a pistol during his visit to a newly-built headquarters of the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Department (GRU) in Moscow, 08 November 2006. ?Some countries are seeking to untie their hands in order to take weapons to outer space, including nuclear weapons,? Putin said at the Chief Military Intelligence Department on Wednesday.
9/21 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin fishing on the Khemchik River near the foothills of the Western Sayan Mountains in the Republic of Tuva. Time magazine named President Vladimir Putin its “person of the year” 19 December 2007 in recognition of the Russian leader’s role in making Moscow “a critical linchpin of the 21st century. The award, which is not considered an honor so much as a recognition of the most powerful forces shaping the world, was awarded for Putin’s role in reshaping a country that Time’s Managing Editor Richard Stengel said had “fallen off our mental map.”
10/21 2008
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stands next to Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi during the signing of agreements between the two countries April 17, 2008 in Tripoli, Libya. Putin is in Libya for a two-day official visit to rebuild Russian-Libyan relations.
11/21 2009
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is pictured with a horse during his vacation outside the town of Kyzyl in Southern Siberia
12/21 2010
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin plays piano during a charity concert in Saint Petersburg
13/21 2011
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) rides a motorbike as he takes part in the 16th annual motorbike festival held by “The Night Wolves” youth organization in the southern Russian town of Novorossiysk
14/21 2012
Russian President Vladimir Putin pilots a motorized hang glider while flying with cranes as he takes part in a scientific experiment as part of the “Flight of Hope”, which aims to preserve a rare species of – cranes on September 5, 2012. At the helm of a motorized hang glider that the birds have taken as their leader, Putin made three flights – the first to get familiar with the process, and two others with the birds.
15/21 2013
Russin President Vladimir Putin as he plays with his dogs ‘Buffy’ (up) and ‘Yume’ at his residence Novo-Ogariovo, outside Moscow. Bulgarian shepherd dog ‘Buffy’ was presented to Putin by his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov while Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda offered Putin the puppy ‘Yume’ as a gift during the G20 in Mexico in June.
16/21 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits USA House in the Olympic Village
17/21 2015
Russias President Vladimir Putin works out at a gym at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi
18/21 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on June 25, 2016 in Beijing, China. Russian President Vladimir Putin is in China to discuss more economic and military cooperation between the two countries.
19/21 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin fishes in the remote Tuva region in southern Siberia.
20/21 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on the phone in his office in Saint Petersburg on December 15, 2018 with Artyom Palyanov — a boy with brittle bone disease who wished to see a bird’s eye view of the city. – Earlier the President promised to make his dream come true by sending him on a helicopter tour of the city.
21/21
Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, meets Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, during a bilateral meeting on the first day of the G20 summit on June 28, 2019 in Osaka, Japan. U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Osaka on Thursday for the annual Group of 20 gathering together with other world leaders who will use the two-day summit to discuss pressing economic, climate change, as well as geopolitical issues. The US-China trade war is expected to dominate the meetings in Osaka as President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet on Saturday in an attempt to resolve the ongoing the trade clashes between the world’s two largest economies.
1/21 1999
Russian President Boris Yeltsin (R) poses with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Alexei II (L) and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (C) at the Kremlin in Moscow 31 December 1999. Yeltsin announced 31 December 1999 that he was resigning immediately and that Putin, according to the Russian constitution, would run the country as acting president until presidential elections in March 2000.
2/21 2000
Russian President Vladimir Putin poses with his wife Lyudmila in front of the Taj Mahal 04 October 2000. Putin is on a three-day visit to India.
3/21 2001
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and US President George W. Bush (R) smile following press conference at Crawford High School in Crawford, Texas 15 November 2001. Presidents Putin and Bush spoke about their meeting at the Bush ranch at a press conference at Crawford High School.
4/21 2002
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) discuss as they walk in the residence of Zavidovo , in the Tver region, some 120 km north-west of Moscow, as Cherie Blair (C) and Lyudmila Putina (not pictured) follow them 11 October 2002. Tony Blair arrived in Russia for two days of face-to-face talks with President Vladimir Putin on fresh UN action to force Iraq to give up weapons of mass destruction.
5/21 2003
Russian President Vladimir Putin is accompanied by Her Majesty The Queen during a procession at The Mallat during the start iof his state visit on June 24, 2003 in London, England. Putin is on a 4 days visit in Great Britain and will attend a number of functions during his time in the country. The visit is the first by a Russian President since 1843.
6/21 2004
President Vladimir Putin pets his dog Conny before one of his meetings with officials in his office in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, 03 March 2004. Putin met Wednesday with his nominee for prime minister, Mikhail Fradkov, and expressed hope that the government and parliament would work closely in the future. At left is a bodyguard.
7/21 2005
Russian President Vladimir Putin seen during the recording of his annual televised New Year’s message at the Kremlin, with the Spassky Tower in the background, in Moscow, recorded early, 29 December 2005.
8/21 2006
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a pistol during his visit to a newly-built headquarters of the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Department (GRU) in Moscow, 08 November 2006. ?Some countries are seeking to untie their hands in order to take weapons to outer space, including nuclear weapons,? Putin said at the Chief Military Intelligence Department on Wednesday.
9/21 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin fishing on the Khemchik River near the foothills of the Western Sayan Mountains in the Republic of Tuva. Time magazine named President Vladimir Putin its “person of the year” 19 December 2007 in recognition of the Russian leader’s role in making Moscow “a critical linchpin of the 21st century. The award, which is not considered an honor so much as a recognition of the most powerful forces shaping the world, was awarded for Putin’s role in reshaping a country that Time’s Managing Editor Richard Stengel said had “fallen off our mental map.”
10/21 2008
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stands next to Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi during the signing of agreements between the two countries April 17, 2008 in Tripoli, Libya. Putin is in Libya for a two-day official visit to rebuild Russian-Libyan relations.
11/21 2009
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is pictured with a horse during his vacation outside the town of Kyzyl in Southern Siberia
12/21 2010
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin plays piano during a charity concert in Saint Petersburg
13/21 2011
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) rides a motorbike as he takes part in the 16th annual motorbike festival held by “The Night Wolves” youth organization in the southern Russian town of Novorossiysk
14/21 2012
Russian President Vladimir Putin pilots a motorized hang glider while flying with cranes as he takes part in a scientific experiment as part of the “Flight of Hope”, which aims to preserve a rare species of – cranes on September 5, 2012. At the helm of a motorized hang glider that the birds have taken as their leader, Putin made three flights – the first to get familiar with the process, and two others with the birds.
15/21 2013
Russin President Vladimir Putin as he plays with his dogs ‘Buffy’ (up) and ‘Yume’ at his residence Novo-Ogariovo, outside Moscow. Bulgarian shepherd dog ‘Buffy’ was presented to Putin by his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov while Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda offered Putin the puppy ‘Yume’ as a gift during the G20 in Mexico in June.
16/21 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin visits USA House in the Olympic Village
17/21 2015
Russias President Vladimir Putin works out at a gym at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi
18/21 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on June 25, 2016 in Beijing, China. Russian President Vladimir Putin is in China to discuss more economic and military cooperation between the two countries.
19/21 2017
Russian President Vladimir Putin fishes in the remote Tuva region in southern Siberia.
20/21 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks on the phone in his office in Saint Petersburg on December 15, 2018 with Artyom Palyanov — a boy with brittle bone disease who wished to see a bird’s eye view of the city. – Earlier the President promised to make his dream come true by sending him on a helicopter tour of the city.
21/21
Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, meets Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, during a bilateral meeting on the first day of the G20 summit on June 28, 2019 in Osaka, Japan. U.S. President Donald Trump arrived in Osaka on Thursday for the annual Group of 20 gathering together with other world leaders who will use the two-day summit to discuss pressing economic, climate change, as well as geopolitical issues. The US-China trade war is expected to dominate the meetings in Osaka as President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet on Saturday in an attempt to resolve the ongoing the trade clashes between the world’s two largest economies.
The plans seemed designed to accommodate a number of not-quite-retirement scenarios for life after 2024 when, according to Russian law, Mr Putin is obliged to leave office.  
Mr Putin revealed little in the way of detail. But what seems clear is that a remarkable amount is being changed for one thing to stay the same him at the top of Russian politics.
Reacting over the last 24 hours, local commentators compared the scale of Mr Putins plans to a coup, a revolution from above and a return to the Soviet Union. One suggested the ruling party may return to a central role akin to the Communist one. 
Russias opposition was outraged, if not entirely surprised. 
The speech showed what blockheads (and/or crooks) those who claimed Putin would leave in 2024 are, said Alexei Navalny, Mr Putins most prominent foe. Putins only aim is to remain the only leader for life, taking ownership of an entire country and appropriating wealth to himself and his friends. 
Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev attend a meeting with members of the government in Moscow (Reuters)
Mr Medvedevs government had long been ridiculed, and his resignation predicted dozens of times. But the timing of his departure stunned all but a chosen few in Mr Putins inner circle. 
Certainly, the former prime minister was seriously damaged by investigations into his alleged corruption, which provoked street protests. His government has also presided over five years of falling real incomes. But Medvedev could hardly be blamed for this, coming as it largely did the result of low investment confidence and sanctions, both direct consequences of Mr Putins belligerent domestic and foreign policies.
Most believed Mr Medvedevs 2011 show of loyalty to the president would be enough to see him keep the job. For that reason, he was also seen as Mr Putins likely presidential successor. His apparent willingness to act as a fall guy to Mr Putin makes the demotion even more puzzling. 
We do not, as yet, have a clear picture about what happened in the run up to yesterdays shock announcement, but the signs of major disagreement are there. According to the Kommersant newspaper, Mr Medvedev had been pressing for a different type of reform, merging governmental and presidential functions along the lines of the US presidential system. Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper associated with the opposition, suggested Mr Medvedev lashed out after discovering Mr Putins radically different plans. 
Other more loyal outlets said Mr Putin became angry with slow progress and wanted to replace his long-time associate with someone more results-oriented. 
The incoming premier certainly fits that bill. Mikhail Mishustin, 53, was not widely known outside government, but made a name for himself as a reforming technocrat. He was confirmed by a vote in parliament on Thursday. 
Mikhail Mishustin (Getty Images)
Kremlin insiders say the former tax man stood out by using digital technology to turn around Russias failing tax service, now considered to be one of the most efficient in the world. Over the past five years, a time when the economy has stagnated, Mr Mishustin achieved a remarkable feat with a 50 per cent growth in tax receipts.
Mr Mishustins tax service is also considered to be one of the least corrupt government bodies though critics say his own personal record on corruption is less impressive. Soon after he was named, Proekt, a Russian investigative publication, suggested that Mr Mishustin may have hidden his ownership of several properties in desirable locations in and around Moscow. Proekt reported that the properties (estimated value £7.5 million) were listed as belonging to the Russian government. 
Whether Mr Mishustin has a role to play in Mr Putins long-term transition plan is anyones guess. The incoming premier is not associated with any of the ruling groups and in Russias system of informal authoritarian rule forging an independent role will be difficult. Many assume he will play the role of a caretaker while a notional successor is sought, though anything is possible.  
What is clear is that the process of Mr Putin transitioning from the presidency has begun. The state-of-the-nation speech offered new clarity elsewhere, too. We now understand that parliament will become more powerful, his presidential successor less so, and the scenario of a forced unification with Belarus, as unlikely as it always seemed, is now firmly off the table. 
But the president also left a few doors open about life after 2024: would he opt for the role of prime minister, speaker of either parliament, or as head of the newly strengthened state council? 
Putins proposals came as a bombshell, but they remain vague, said Maxim Trudolyubov, an editor-at-large of the Vedomosti newspaper. They seem designed for the widest possible interpretation. But dont doubt that Putin intends to remain Russias dominant figure and supervise a political transition based on his own scenario. Whether he succeeds is another matter. 
According to Mr Trudolyubov, Mr Putin seemed to have taken inspiration from the model of Deng Xiaoping, Chinas de-facto leader between 1977 and the mid-1990s, and Lee Kuan Yew, Singapores first prime minister from 1959 to 1990. Both men continued to supervise their governments from seemingly inconspicuous roles. 
Another role model may have been Stalin, he said: You make your move before they do.