Putin Centralizes Moscow’s Administration of North Caucasus

May 13, 2014

Staunton, May 12 – Vladimir Putin has replaced Aleksandr Khloponin as presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus with Sergey Melikov, commander of internal troops in the North Caucasus, and offered Lev Kuznetsov, the governor of Krasnoyarsk Territory, the new post of minister for the development of the North Caucasus.

Khloponin will remain a vice prime minister, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, suggesting that no one should see the change reflecting dissatisfaction with his work but rather view his departure as the logical result of the formation of a new federal ministry and hence of a “reformation of administrative arrangements in the North Caucasus.

Vadim Mukhanov, a researcher at MGIMO’s Center for Problems of the Caucasus and Regional Security, agreed. He suggested these moves by Putin bear “a global character” and should not be analyzed as the change of one official by another.

Instead, he suggested, the creation of a new ministry suggests Moscow intends to play an even more direct role in running the North Caucasus via the new ministry and that putting an Interior Ministry general in as presidential plenipotentiary indicates that Putin wants the federal district to focus on security and stabilization rather than on broader issues as Khloponin has.

Nikolay Silayev, the director of the Caucasus Cooperation NGO, added to Mukhanov’s comment, suggesting that from now on, “the presidential plenipotentiary will not be considered as the coordinating center for the development of regional policy.” Instead, Moscow will play that role directly.

Indeed, Silayev asked rhetorically, “what after the creation of the ministry will be the functional role” of that institution?

Khloponin’s departure probably also means that the status of the other presidential plenipotentiaries may now be lowered as well – or possibly even eliminated altogether in the coming months.