Kolokoltsev’s reshuffle of the MVD

New Interior Minister Kolokoltsev is doing what every new incumbent of the office does: reshuffling the upper echelons of the police. After appointing Major General (Police) Anatoly Yakunin as his successor as chief of the Moscow GUVD (police service), and launching a high-profile anti-corruption campaign in the North Caucasus to show he means business, he has turned to the MVD hierarchy. OnJune 16, Putin announced the replacement of four deputy interior ministers, so the new line-up is:

    • Interior Minister: Gen. Vladimir Kolokoltsev
    • First Deputy Interior Minister: Lt. Gen. Alexander Gorovoy
    • Deputy Minister & State Secretary: Igor Zubov [NEW]
    • Deputy Minister: Lt. Gen. Mikhail Vanichkin [NEW]
    • Deputy Minister: State Counselor 2nd class Sergei Gerasimov
    • Deputy Minister: Col. Gen. Viktor Kir’yanov 
    • Deputy Minister: Maj. Gen. Arkady Gostev [NEW]
    • Deputy Minister and Commander, Interior Troops: Army Gen. Nikolai Rogozhkin
    • Deputy Minister and Head of the Investigations Department: Maj. Gen. (Justice) Yuri Alekseev [NEW]

Rogozhkin, head of the VV Interior Troops  is in many ways a fairly autonomous individual. He reaches the age of 60 this year and so might be retired, but conversely unless and until his forces commit some egregious blunder or look less than able and enthusiastic in enforcing the Kremlin’s write, the view may well prevail that it is best to leave things be.

However, what this does mean is that the entire ministerial line-up at the MVD is now relatively new: Gorovoy, Kir’yanov and Gerasimov are all relative newcomers, appointed in 2011.

Interestingly, one of the four figures dismissed was Major General Sergei Bulavin, the Deputy Minister and State Secretary, who had only been appointed last year and had been specifically charged with the police reform program. Furthermore, he was one of the highest-profile advocates of the move towards creating a more positive relationship between the police and society (see his interview in Vesti here, for example).

Igor Zubov wears a suit and doesn’t use his rank these days. But he was still a career cop.

Doubly interesting is that he was replaced by Igor Zubov, who had been a deputy interior minister between 1999 and 2001, playing a key role in the Second Chechen War, before being moving or being moved out of the MVD hierarchy, spending some time as a local deputy in the Tver oblast legislature (having failed to win the Tver governorship in 2003, getting a third of the votes in the runoff round) and then teaching constitutional and local law at the MVD University in Moscow.

It’s too early to be too certain quite what this means. Bringing back a police officer with a strong legal background and some experience outside the MVD to pilot the next stage of reform might be an encouraging sign, a sense that there is an awareness that it needs to be rooted in a greater sense of police legality, and also that it needs someone who less affected by the internal political rivalries and departmental interests of the police high command. On the other hand, Zubov’s role within the Chechen conflict is unclear — though some people have suggested to me that he was a key figure behind the widespread use of extrajudicial detentions and, ahem, extreme interrogation method. Given that his politics definitely seem to be on the nationalist side — in 2003 he stood for Baburin’s Narodnaya Volya party, since become the Russian All-People’s Union) — none of this bodes quite so well. (Though in fairness, conservative nationalism and legalism need not be at all contradictory.)

Overall, though, this reshuffle does suggest that Kolokoltsev is moving fast to establish his authority over the MVD and sweeping out remnants of the Nurgaliev era (including deputy minister Smirnyy, who was especially closely linked with the old order). The key challenge will be to see if he can assert his authority over regional commands.

Postscript: There’s an interesting article in Vedomosti here that also looks at changes below the ministerial level and again floats the suggestion (which I had previously mentioned here) that sacked St Petersburg police chief Mikhail Sukhodolsky may be brought back into the fold.

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