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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW6762 2006-06-26 13:12 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

DE RUEHMO #6762/01 1771312
P 261312Z JUN 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 006762 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/20/2014 
REF: A. MOSCOW 6547 
     B. MOSCOW 6268 
     C. MOSCOW 5934 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine, 
 for reasons 1.4 (B & D) 
1. (U)  On June 23 President Putin nominated Vladimir Ustinov 
-- who on June 2 had been removed from his prior position as 
Procurator General -- to be Minister of Justice.  In his new 
position Ustinov succeeds former Justice Minister Yuriy 
Chayka, who on June 19 was named as Ustinov's successor as 
Procurator General.  In effect, Ustinov and Chayka have 
simply exchanged jobs, and some journalists have concluded 
that the changes carry less political significance than had 
initially been believed at the time of Ustinov's removal as 
Procurator General. 
2. (C)  Most Russian analysts do not share that conclusion. 
While commentators here are continuing publicly and privately 
to mine the appointments for insights into the succession 
process, the primary conclusions currently being drawn here 
include that: 
-  The changes reemphasize that at least at the current phase 
of the succession process, Putin retains his role as (in the 
words of the Center for Political Technologies) "the demiurge 
of Russian politics."  None of Putin's three decisions -- to 
remove Ustinov as Procurator General, to appoint Chayka in 
his place, and to appoint Ustinov as Justice Minister -- was 
widely expected, and Putin has not felt constrained to 
provide even post-factum explanations for any of the moves. 
Some speculate that as the succession process moves forward 
and its uncertainties drive increasingly sharp competition 
among members of Putin's entourage, he will repeatedly need 
to act in a similar fashion to discipline "competitive 
excesses" and restore the balance he wants to maintain. 
-  The job of Minister of Justice is a reponsible and 
respected position, but in terms of power it is a clear step 
down in the Russian system from the Procurator General, who 
has traditionally had far more levers at his disposal (as 
figures from Gusinskiy and Berezovskiy to Khodorkovskiy can 
confirm from their personal experience).  Almost no one here 
would dispute that Ustinov has been taken down a peg by 
Putin, and that by extension the "siloviki" group of which 
Ustinov has been a leading figure has also taken a hit.  That 
impression is only strengthened by the two-week delay during 
which Putin kept Ustinov twisting slowly, slowly in the wind 
before announcing his new assignment.  It is not clear 
whether Putin's failure to immediately announce Ustinov's 
follow-on assignment was part of a disciplining process, or 
whether internal forces within the leadership group had any 
influence on Ustinov's eventual nomination as Justice 
-  By concluding the episode with the naming of Ustinov as 
Minister of Justice (rather than as a Presidential 
Representative in some remote area of Russia or as a diplomat 
abroad), Putin has sent the message that Ustinov had not 
irreparably blotted his copybook.  While taken down a peg, he 
remains a member of Putin's team.  Some commentators regard 
this as confirmation (a) that Putin tends to display loyalty 
to his team and is loathe to fire any team member outright, 
(b) that the balance that Putin wanted to restore among the 
competing groups required only a measured take-down of a 
silovik, not an outright purge, and/or (c) that Putin's team 
in fact has a very thin bench, with few quality replacements 
available to step up into major assignments, forcing Putin 
periodically to recycle familiar faces into new positions, 
rather than bring in fresh blood. 
-  Russia is a country of weak institutions, and the key 
relationships are personal, not institutional.  It is not 
inevitable that the Justice Ministry under Ustinov will be as 
peripheral an institution as it was under Chayka, or that the 
Procuracy General under Chayka will be as strong as it was 
under Ustinov.  It will be at least initially assumed, 
however, that any politically relevant assertiveness of the 
Procuracy under Chayka will be steered directly by Putin, 
whereas many believed that Ustinov was at times pursuing his 
own agenda or that of the "siloviki" corporately in his 
actions as Procurator General. 
-  How vigorously Ustinov may try to remain a leading 
political figure and to expand the influence of his new 
Ministry will depend in part on how he has read the meaning 
of Putin's action.  If he understands that he has in essence 
been told to lower his profile and look more directly to 
Putin for instructions, he may remain for some time in the 
background.  The commentator Aleskey Zudin remarked that "if 
MOSCOW 00006762  002 OF 002 
Ustinov doesn't lower his level of political activity, that 
will mean that Putin is losing political strength." 
-  Since the Justice Minstry has responsibilities, inter 
alia, for the registration of political parties -- a 
significant area of influence as Russia approaches the 2007 
Duma elections and 2008 succession -- as well as of NGOs and 
religious organizations, many are already concerned that he 
may impose his own views on those new responsibilities. 
Independent Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov commented, h
that the Justice Ministry under Chayka was already 
politicized, and Ustinov's appointment would likely bring few 
changes.   A Kommersant article reported that a source close 
to the Kremlin did not rule out that Ustinov's new 
responsibilities related to political parties might lead to 
increased tensions between two Presidential Administration 
deputy heads:  Vladislav Surkov, who takes the lead on most 
issues relating to political parties, and Igor Sechin, who is 
generally seen as the leader of the "silovik" faction and who 
has close personal and political ties to Ustinov. 
-  Some will be looking for changes in the economic as well 
as the political sphere.  Commentator Stanislav Belkovskiy, 
for instance, stressed that the removal of Ustinov from the 
Procuracy General means that "Sechin has lost the ability to 
use the Procuracy to resolve commercial conflicts."  That 
could potentially have significant consequences as the 
competing groups around Putin fight for property and 
financial advantage before the end of his Presidency. 
-  One apparent loser in the Ustinov/Chayka shuffle is 
Presidential Representative to the South District of Russia 
Dmitriy Kozak, who many had expected to return to the capital 
as Procurator General (and as such become a potential 
candidate for the presidential succession) or at least as 
Minister of Justice.  Kozak may yet return to Moscow in a 
responsible position, but Putin clearly passed over an 
opportunity to bring him back now in a position for which he 
had obvious qualifications. 
-  Initial expectations or at least hopes that Ustinov's 
removal from the Procuracy -- and his speculative replacement 
by Kozak -- might mean an intensification of anti-corruption 
activities and/or a reform of the Procuracy have been 
deflated.  There is a sense that, whatver the changes may 
mean in terms of intra-leadership competition for power, they 
probably will mean very little for anti-corruption or 
government reform efforts. 
3. (C)  The Embassy had only very limited cooperation with 
the Ministry of Justice under Yuriy Chayka's leadership, and 
we therefore expect Ustinov's appointment to have little 
impact in that regard.  Most USAID programs in the area of 
rule of law are handled directly with the Russian judiciary, 
and there too we anticipate little change.  Ustinov's 
appointment could potentially have an impact on USAID 
programs in the area of democratization and support for civil 
society if it affected the registration of NGOs, since most 
USAID funding in that area is channeled through NGOs.  At 
this point, however, the NGO community is waiting to see how 
implementation of the new NGO law will proceed, and it is not 
clear that Ustinov's role in the Ministry will bring 
significant changes in that regard. 


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