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Russian elites scramble for power in Putin’s ‘last’ Cabinet

Kremlin officials are reported to be on edge ahead of a planned government reshuffle that will follow the inauguration of President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Putin will be sworn in to begin his fifth term in a lavish inauguration ceremony in Moscow, cementing his position as the longest-serving leader in the Kremlin since Josef Stalin. His term will expire in 2030, and under constitutional changes made prior to the war in Ukraine, he may remain in power until 2036.

His inauguration will be aired at noon Moscow time on Tuesday, state TV channel Russia-1 said.

On the eve of the ceremony, Kremlin officials began to discuss among themselves who may be affected by Putin’s planned government shake-up, independent Russian news outlet Meduza reported, citing sources close to the Russian presidential administration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, center, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are seen in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 14, 2019. Kremlin officials are reported to be on…
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, center, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are seen in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on February 14, 2019. Kremlin officials are reported to be on edge ahead of a planned government reshuffle that will follow Putin’s inauguration on Tuesday. SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images

Valentina Matvienko, a Russian politician and Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council, told Russia’s state-run news agency RIA Novosti on April 24 that there will likely be personnel changes in the government, but that the “backbone” of the Cabinet will remain. Newsweek has contacted Russia’s Foreign Ministry via email for comment.

“The mood of many is not just nervous, but tense. Some are hoping [for a promotion], others are worried about being moved [to a lower status position]. In general, many miss [changes], they want movement,” one source told Meduza.

The publication said its sources say some officials are vying to secure better positions within the Kremlin.

“Such applicants want to get as close to the throne as possible, as they believe that this presidential term could be the last for 71-year-old Putin,” Meduza reported.

“[In their opinion], changes in the hierarchy line are inevitable. And this means that you need to be closer to the place where decisions are made,” one source said.

Russian media has touted a number of officials as potential candidates for a promotion in Putin’s forthcoming reshuffle. RTVI published a story on May 2, which asked: “Will [Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu and [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov remain in the government after the inauguration?”

Former Kremlin speechwriter Abbas Gallyamov has suggested that Shoigu’s chances of retaining his position decreased following the arrest of his deputy, Timur Ivanov, last month.

Weighing in on the Kremlin reshuffle, Anton Gerashchenko, a former adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs, said on X, formerly Twitter, that Russian military correspondents are speculating that Shoigu might be replaced as defense minster by Aleksey Dyumin, a former Kremlin security agent.

Born in Kursk, in western Russia, Dyumin is a former agent of the Federal Guard Service (FSO) that provides security for the president and other state officials, and was appointed as governor of Tula region by Putin in February 2016. He previously served as Shoigu’s deputy in the Russian Ministry of Defense, and several analysts—Western and Russian—have said in the past that they believe he has his eyes set on returning to the department as its head.

Dyumin served in Putin’s guard when he was president from 2000 to 2008 as well as when Putin headed the government from 2008 to 2012.

RTVI said, citing two sources in Russia’s parliament, that Lavrov’s future as foreign minister is also being discussed.

“The leadership of the two factions of the State Duma believe that it is possible that Lavrov will work in the Foreign Ministry for another year or a year and a half, and leave his post after the US presidential elections, since until this moment a change in the head of the foreign policy department is regarded as undesirable for political and opportunistic reasons,” the publication reported.

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