Against the background of the dramatic events in Ukraine, a new persona has suddenly entered Russian politics.
Online PR News – 11-May-2014 – Istanbul/Turkey – Against the background of the dramatic events in Ukraine, a new persona has suddenly entered Russian politics, which has attracted the attention of local bloggers and journalists. Here are some typical Russian media headlines from early April: (1)
“The Empire’s New Heir?”
“A New Player in the Political Arena of Russia”
“Putin Finds a Successor?”
Meet Roman Putin, nephew of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. 37 years old, ex-officer of the Federal Security Service (the KGB), and according to Wikipedia
“entrepreneur, investment consultant and public figure”.
Until December of last year, the Russian president’s nephew stood in the shadows, leading the frugal lifestyle of a run-of-the-mill entrepreneur. In recent years, the media had remained almost completely silent, before 2011 occasionally mentioning Putin in the business field as a participant of the gyroplane presentation to the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, the water taxi project for Moscow’s mayor Sergei Sobyanin, and so forth. Putin lived quietly on and did not particularly stand out, until his submarine received the signal for a sudden emersion.
The bell tolled for the first time during Roman Putin’s conflict with the Novosibirsk region Governor Vasiliy Yurchenko in December of last year. During a report press conference, the governor was provoked to comment the dismissal of his adviser Putin, who failed at a project that he was not even involved in. The reason why the governor openly lied about the nephew of Vladimir Putin in public still remains a mystery. In response, the offended Putin Jr. came down hard on the corruption surrounding the governor, and addressed the Investigative Committee to “sort things out”. After this verbal attack on the nephew, all of Yurchenko’s accumulated dirty laundry poured out into the press.
Yet this was only the half of it, more treats were in store after the Olympic Games. Immediately after its closing, Vladimir Putin’s nephew opens a consulting company with the obscure name «Putin Consulting», “to help foreign investors overcome administrative barriers in Russia”. Its opening was noted by the world’s leading media, from The Washington Post to the WSJ, to The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph. This seemed like the product of Vladimir Putin’s peculiar sense of humor, who through his nephew wanted to “troll” his Western partners against the backdrop of the declared sanctions. Putin Jr. himself stated that he considers it his “mission” to aid the Russian economy in its hour of need and to help it overcome possible isolation. Whatever the reason, it was impossible to carry out such a project without the Kremlin’s consent.
A week after the start of Putin Consulting, Vladimir Putin flings out Yurchenko from the governor’s chair with the unprecedented wording “due to loss of confidence”. Security officials take the governor right at the boarding bridge, as they did with the famous oligarch Khodorkovsky. One of the most popular versions of the resignation was that the uncle dealt with the offender himself. Whatever the case, Yurchenko was quite promptly answered for publically offending the nephew. At the same time, another governor named Dmitry Kobylkin, head of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, is working with Putin Jr. and rising quickly. From the year’s very beginning, Kobylkin stably holds first place in the Kremlin’s ranking of Russian governors.
In late March, Roman Putin declares war against corruptive schemes, which are used by general contractors to embezzle budget funds. He brings to the State Duma the legislative initiative to restrict the general contractor’s percents. At the gunpoint of Putin Jr. are the unpopular oligarchs from the “Lake” cooperative, businessmen touched by the U.S. sanctions—from Yakunin to Rotenberg. In response to the allegations no lawsuits or complaints followed from the silent oligarchs, only a surprised blog post by the famous oppositionist Alexei Navalny (2), who saw a competitor in the face of Roman Putin.
According to the famous Soviet dissident Vladimir Pribylovski (3): “The anxiety of the ‘main anti-corruption activist of All Russia’ [Navalny] is not unreasonable, because in comparison with the president’s nephew, he does not appear in the most favorable light. Unlike the theorist Navalny, Putin Jr. proposed specific actions to overcome corruption, and even showed that he has all the effective levers to solve the problem” (4).
Popular blogger Vlad Shukin notes (5) that the career of young Putin is evolving by the same scenario as the elder Putin’s: KGB officer, work in the city administration, collaboration with foreign investors, and even a tendency to practice oriental martial arts! Roman heads the Taekwondo Federation of Russia, while President Putin was recently awarded the highest, ninth Dan ranking, becoming a Grand Master of Taekwondo. So, we are suddenly faced with the fruit of president Putin’s political strategists, his blood relative who within a month’s time demonstratively punished his “enemy” Yurchenko, opened an international company “under one roof” with the Kremlin , and even managed to push out Navalny in the fight against corruption.
It’s interesting to see how events will develop further. In Russia it is believed that Navalny’s niche will in time be taken over by Roman Putin. Logically, soon enough under the knife will probably go another major general contractor, or maybe even a bigger fish, like some oligarch or governor.
Russian journalists say that Putin’s heir has good electoral prospects among the young and active Russian internet users. Oleg Matveychev, a political analyst close to the Kremlin, posted in his blog (6) an election survey from Livejournal.ru: “Who would you vote for in the presidential election instead of VV [Vladimir Putin]?” In the survey, Roman Putin was accompanied by leaders of Russia’s major parliamentary parties, from the communist Zyuganov to the national populist Zhirinovsky. The result was amazing. More than half of the respondents would vote for Putin’s heir. However, on one condition—if he supports his uncle’s patriotic policy regarding the protection of rights of Russians in Ukraine.
In Russia, nepotism has always been an important career factor, especially among top leadership. It is said that today Vlad is especially afraid of betrayal, that under the yoke of Western sanctions the faithful elite can betray their king. Who else is to be relied on during hard times, if not on kindred blood?
However, it is possible that before the public an imaginary scenario of the nephew’s conflict with the authorities will be played out in order to add subjectivity to his actions. Rigid geopolitical confrontations between Russia and the West is fraught with enormous risks, military escalation could bring down the president’s political rating, and even raise the question of his replacement. By having as an asset a system oppositionist with the last name of Putin, the Kremlin can play a long-term game to prepare public opinion for the Heir’s future victory in the “democratic” elections.