A selection of the latest rumors in Russian politics

Rumor has it that the special services have started intensive efforts to collect information on Garry Kasparov, particularly his links to the National Security Advisory Council at the Center for Security Policy (USA). Kasparov’s foreign funding sources are also being investigated.

Chemezov tipped to become prime minister

Sergei Chemezov, general director of Rosoboroneksport (Russian Defense Exports), is said to be turning into a political figure: joining the leadership bodies of the United Russia party and taking part in planning the party’s strategy. After the Duma election, he would be a natural candidate for prime minister, representing the siloviki (security and law enforcement people). With the international situation becoming more confrontational, and the USA and NATO stepping up their military efforts, Russia needs a prime minister who knows all about creating a defensive shield. Under the circumstances, it’s entirely likely that President Putin would agree to appoint Chemezov as prime minister. This appointment would lead to more defense industry executives being transferred to government ministries and agencies, with the aim of restoring order to their operations. And, as everyone knows, it’s only a short step from prime minister to president.

Lavrov mentioned as a potential successor

Yet another far-fetched rumor about the identity of Putin’s successor has started circulating: it concerns Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He may have formed an alliance with another potential successor – Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railroads. In such a tandem, Lavrov could count on becoming president, a role requiring familiarity with foreign policy issues; Yakunin would be the prime minister, since he has sufficient knowledge of economic management. Reportedly, their supporters believe that Putin will choose between two “successor pairs”: Sergei Ivanov with Dmitri Medvedev, or Sergei Lavrov with Vladimir Yakunin.

Changes anticipated at Gazprom

Rumor has it that the presidential administration is considering the idea of restructuring Gazprom’s management. Criticism from Europe about Gazprom’s lack of transparency is hampering the company’s plans for expansion abroad. It is rumored that Economic Development and Trade Minister Herman Gref might become a senior executive at Gazprom. The addition of someone with Gref’s status ought to reinforce Gazprom’s standing in international markets, and Gazprom might develop a new area of activity, tailored to Gref’s interests and skills. There could be a variety of candidates for this kind of reinforcement. Confrontation between Kremlin factions is evidently escalating as the elections approach, with each faction striving to destroy the economic underpinnings of its rivals. For the siloviki faction, that economic power-base is the Rosneft oil company.

Working on Kasparov

Rumor has it that the special services have started intensive efforts to collect information on Garry Kasparov, particularly his links to the National Security Advisory Council at the Center for Security Policy (USA). Most members of the National Security Advisory Council are former military officers, officials in the FBI, the CIA, or the Pentagon, and members of Congress serving on national security committees. The special services are investigating sponsorship of Kasparov by the Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. Reportedly, it has already been confirmed that most members of these NGOs are linked to the US government. The possibility of affecting Kasparov’s business interests is also being considered; some of them are in the United States. For example, in early 2003 the First International Bank of Israel filed a lawsuit in Delaware for the return of a $1.6 million loan issued to Kasparov Chess Online Inc. in 1998, since the website in question ceased to exist in late 2002 and the grand master himself abandoned the Internet project without fulfilling his obligations.

Berezovsky will get Kyrgyzstan’s gold

The US government and Boris Berezovsky have stated that they are prepared to finance efforts to establish “democratic government” in Russia. The US Congress plans to allocate $110 million for this purpose in 2008-09, and Berezovsky says he will spend $50 million. Some of the money – around $20 million – will be channeled through non-governmental organizations and spent on implementing a “dictatorship of democracy” program in the Trans-Volga federal district and adjacent regions. SOK Group owner Yuri Kachmazov and Federation Council Senator Andrei Ishchuk may be placed in charge of the project. According to the Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate in the Samara region, both tycoons are already active in this area.

Meanwhile, Berezovsky and Leonid Nevzlin have a project going in Kyrgyzstan: it involves the Jerooy gold deposit. Kyrgyzstan’s gold reserves might be handed over to Berezovsky in return for a promise to stop exporting color revolutions to Kyrgyzstan. The newly-appointed chief executive of Jerooy is Rafael Filinov. From 1996 to 2000, he was the general director of Cityline, an ISP in Russia. His co-owners in this company were Yegor Shuppe (Berezovsky’s son-iin-law, married to Ekaterina Berezovskaya), and Demian Kudryavtsev, one of Berezovsky’s trusted assistants.

United Russia picks out a place for Putin

According to our sources, after United Russia’s “triumphant victory” in December’s Duma election, the party leadership will raise the question of Putin becoming United Russia’s de facto leader after he leaves office. Another option is for Putin to remain an independent “moral leader” of the nation, but the victorious United Russia would be his political base. According to this plan, the party would require some organizational changes: it would set up departments to handle all the basic areas of political, economic, and social activity. It would also set up departments focused on close cooperation with the security and law enforcement agencies. Thus, the siloviki would remain under Putin’s control, as an instrument for monitoring security and stability. Putin would also retain the office of Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces. Thus, the plan seems to entail a de facto revival of the CPSU. The center of decision-making would shift to the “leader of the nation,” and United Russia’s leadership bodies would execute the decisions. With this construct in place, the role of the president elected in 2008 would be reduced to representative functions only. Thus, the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of government would act within the framework set out in the Constitution.