Putin’s ‘Viceroy Of The Donbas’ & Top Confidant Seen As Likely Successor To Presidency
During the opening months of the Ukraine war top US generals and officials went on record predicting that the conflict is likely to drag on for “years” to come. For example a headline in March observed it will turn into a quagmire, and that lawmakers at the Capitol were briefed “it is likely to last 10, 15, or 20 years.”
And now, fast-forward to the invasion’s eight-month mark, where it does look to be settling in to a protracted stalemated situation. All the while speculation over the future of “Putin’s war” and even his personal health abounds, with sensational headlines such as this in the UK Times this month: “Putin at 70: isolated, irrational and fearing for his health.”
Speculation over whether the 70-year old Putin will stay in power (and good health) long enough to see his own war in neighboring Ukraine through to a conclusion has naturally given way to questions over a potential successor for leadership, at a moment US and EU sanctions and global condemnation have left Russia more isolated than ever, and at the same time power under Putin’s administration has become the most centralized since the collapse of the USSR.
A fresh report in The Telegraph this week suggests that a career politician and Kremlin insider is likely Putin’s top pick to inherit power, as he was singularly hailed for overseeing the ‘successful’ annexation of the four occupied regions of Ukraine. “For 60-year-old Sergei Kiriyenko, this was the culmination of a mission that he’d been given by Putin,” the report introduces. “Everybody was celebrating and he’d played a major role in the enlargement of Russia.”
“Kiriyenko was in charge of referendums in these regions even if it was the FSB that managed them in the end,” said think tank analyst and Russia-watcher Tatiana Stanovaya. The Telegraph observes, “And now, perhaps mischievously, Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military spy chief, has said that Putin is even lining up the loyal Mr Kiriyenko as a successor.”
The report gives a further snapshot of Kiriyenko’s early political career, who in the late 1990’s served as prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, as follows:
Nobody knows the paranoid Putin’s succession plans but the Russian leader trusts Mr Kiriyenko, who has made the philosophical journey from supporting Western liberalism in the 1990s to promoting Putin’s authoritarianism now.
A technocrat and a follower of the philosopher-founder of the Moscow Methodological Circle, which believes that people and society can be programmed, Mr Kiriyenko has had to rely on patronage from more powerful Russians to make his career.
He was appointed Russia’s youngest prime minister at the age of 35 in 1998 by then-president Boris Yeltsin on the suggestion of Boris Nemtsov, the poster boy of Russian liberalism who was murdered on a bridge next to the Kremlin in 2015.
Currently he serves as First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration of Russia – a role he’s occupied all the way back to 2016, when he was appointed by Putin. Some European outlets have lately dubbed him the ‘Viceroy of the Donas’ for his role in the annexation votes in eastern Ukraine.
Kiriyenko is also considered the man who is personally responsible for Putin’s path to the presidency, being the first to put him forward to head up the FSB intelligence agency under Yeltsin in 1998.
France24 recently featured the following description of Kiriyenko: “The bald and stern-faced 60-year-old entered Putin’s deepest inner circle in 2016, when he was named first deputy head of the presidential office.”
His influence has only grown alongside Putin’s in the meantime, as France24 writes further, “Since then, and thanks to the convenient catch-all title he was given, Putin has been able to task him with any mission he desires, including last week’s sham referendums in the disputed regions in Ukraine, according to American geopolitical think tank GlobalSecurity.org.”
As for Kiriyenko playing the role of personal envoy overseeing political assimilation of occupied regions of Ukraine, this has seen some very “hands on” moments. The Telegraph notes that recently, “Videos show him inspecting damage to the Crimea Bridge and unveiling a statue of a patriotic granny in Mariupol, the Ukraine city that Russian forces had bombed to the ground.”
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) July 2, 2022
However, the report also concludes there are reasons to think that his power won’t outlast Putin’s own… “But Mr Kiriyenko doesn’t have his own power base and no influence within Russia’s powerful security services. His closeness to Putin is a strength and weakness, said Prof Petrov.”
Petrov told the publication, “He is strong now because of his proximity to Putin but with Putin weakening this could change,” as it remains that Kiriyenko “is a tool, a loyal tool for his boss.”
Wed, 10/26/2022 – 21:45