Putin on collision course with Russia’s regional elites, expert says

22 December 2022, 09:19 PM
Political analyst Ivan Preobrazhensky believes that Vladimir Putin's conflict with regional elites is brewing in Russia (Photo:Vadim Savitskii/Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS)

Political analyst Ivan Preobrazhensky believes that Vladimir Putin's conflict with regional elites is brewing in Russia (Photo:Vadim Savitskii/Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS)

The likelihood of a conflict between Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and regional elites in Russia is steadily increasing, Russian political scientist Ivan Preobrazhensky said in an interview with NV on Dec. 22.

According to Preobrazhensky, if the Kremlin has to confront the regional elites – it would divert energy and resources from the war in Ukraine.

“The issue of money is critical for the regions, and now there is a lack of it,” said Preobrazhensky.

“The number of donor regions has officially decreased to three, while the bulk of fiscal assistance from the (federal) budget is received not by the poorest, but, on the contrary, by some of the richest regions. If Putin continues to transfer authority and rights to (Russian) regions – as he has been doing since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic – a conflict is very likely to occur.”

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In an interview with NV Radio back November, former Ukrainian FM Volodymyr Ohryzko said that regional elites in Russia are beginning to realize that Moscow’s dominance is waning.

In his October interview with NV, Preobrazhensky said that Putin delegated some federal authority and powers to local governments of central Russian regions.

“This is important, because the martial law bill was adopted back in 2002, when Russian governors were still quite independent figures,” he said.

By law, they can now control not just local police services, but also give instructions to law enforcement agencies and the army. It is limited, of course, because the military is unlikely to obey them. However, this dramatically increases the subjectivity of governors, and these are consecutive steps.”

“It all started with COVID-19 — at the time, they were blamed for (poor handling of) the epidemic. Then it happened in the second half of the current war. Back then, the governors, on Kremlin orders, began to form some kind of regional battalions, and paid them from local budgets.”

Preobrazhensky added that local governors “rented out” these regional security forces to the Russian army, and later gained control over them.

“For the war, this means that more independent leaders are emerging at the home front,” he concludes.

“They, like Kadyrov (leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic), will soon say that they themselves are to decide how to do mobilization in their region, and there will soon be several dozen governors like that. And destabilizes the situation.”

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