Russia Update: Sources Claim Kudrin to Expect Kremlin Appointment; Peskov Does Not Confirm

December 1, 2015
Aleksei Kudrin with President Vladimir Putin in April 2011. has reported sources who claim former finance minister Aleksei Kudrin will be given a post in the Kremlin soon.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

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Russian Parliament Abolishes the Primacy of International Law; Only 3 Votes Opposed

In a long-discussed and anticipated measure, Russia’s parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of the primacy of international law today, with only 3 opposing votes.

What that means is that Russia no longer acknowledges, as many UN members do (not the United States), that international law takes precedent over domestic Russian law.

This acknowledgement, made in the Yeltsin era, has long been a boon to those seeking to stop torture and mistreatment in the prison system and armed forces, as they could cite this pledge at UN treaty bodies reviewing Russia.

Translation: Rubber stamped. Voting against were I, [Sergei] Petrov and [Ilya] Ponomarev (to be more precise, his card in my hand as a proxy.)

Update: On the abolition of the priority of international law.

Gudkov is one of the few remaining opposition members in the State Duma. Petrov is in the Just Russia faction. Ponomarev has fled abroad facing prosecution on charges widely believed to be fabricated that he accepted a high lecture fee at the Skolkovo Foundation, a project once supported under the Medvedev presidency which has now under criminal investigation by the Putin administration.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

TurkStream and Nuclear Power Station Talks Reportedly Halted In Russian Retaliations Against Turkey

Talks between Russia and Turkey on TurkStream, a pipeline conceived to route around Russia’s dependency on Ukraine to get gas to Europe, have been halted according to a source “familiar with the situation,” Interfax reports.

Turkey is Russia’s biggest gas customer after Germany. 

Translation: A source reported the halting of negotiations on Turkish Stream.

Russia has made a number of angry retaliations against Turkey, a long-time regional partner, in response to Turkey’s downing of a Russian war plane that briefly strayed into Turkish airspace.

Interfax reports that the source said Russia’s assistance with building the Akkuyu nuclear power station for Turkey has also been suspended.

“The current deliveries of Russian gas will not fall under the embargo and will be made in accordance with the contract,” said the source.

Earlier, a Russian official had said that the suspension of the Russian-Turkish Intergovernment Commission would not mean the halting of projects like TurkStream.

An official announcement has not been made regarding TurkStream and Akkayu. 

Russia has also halted tours to Turkey, a popular budget destination for vacationing Russians and business people, and has suspended imports of some Turkish fruits and vegetables. Other areas affected by the embargo include spare parts for cars.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick Publishes Sources Claiming Former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to Expect Kremlin Appointment; Peskov Does Not Confirm reports that former finance minister Aleksei Kudrin may leave his position in the position as head of the Committee of Civic Initiatives and assume a post in the Kremlin, according to “several sources” close to Kadrin.

Pavel Kuznetsov, press secretary for Kudrin, said he had no comment.
Kudrin is known as an advocate of “unpopular economic reforms” and has visited President Vladimir Putin several times in recent months “to work on reforms,” says the sources.
According to one scenario, he may be asked to serve as first deputy head of the administration along with long-time Kremlin official Aleksei Gromov who has served since the Soviet era, and Vyacheslav Volodin, who was apppointed deputy prime minister and government chief of staff in 2010.
Both Gromov and Volodin are said to be opposed to the alleged appointment of Kudrin.
According to another scenario, Kudrin will be made advisor to the president where he will be situated “between two fires” — conservative Sergei Glasyev and Andrei Belousov, another aide assigned to the economy. “He won’t go for that because then he can’t do anything,” said the sources.

Another option might be to create a “presidential center for reforms” where Kudrin will serve, although a similar body already exists, the Academy of Domestic Economics and Government Service headed by Vladimir Mau; there is also the Higher School of Economics which is now closer to the Kremlin and headed by Yaroslav Kuzmin since Sergei Guriev, a liberal critic left Russia.

Guriev is now at the European Bank for Redevelopment. Volodin is head of the observers’ board of the Higher School of Economics. If Kudrin is put in such a center, while his work would be outside the bureaucracy, it would only serve as a recommendation, say the sources.

Kudrin is said to be distancing himself from the Committee of Civic Initiatives which has participated in opposition events and minimizing his contacts with the opposition in preparation for taking these posts.
The sources said both Kudrin and German Gref, head of Sberbank, have tried to impress upon Putin the seriousness of the economic crisis and the need for “radical steps”. 
Putin is due to give his annual address on December 3, and will make the announcement regarding Kudrin during the speech or after, the sources said.

Experts such as Yevgeny Yasin, a head of research at the Higher School of Economics, once leading President Boris Yeltsin’s “500 Days” reform program, believes Kudrin would be a good thing for the Russian economy and characterized him as “one of the people closest to me in thinking and understanding about the situation in the country.”

Kudrin has predicted ongoing recession since last year and a fall in the GDP by .5 to 1 percent; he has also criticized the Kremlin for actions such as freezing pension funds.

Some commentators have also theorized that the return of Kudrin would mean Putin “did not wish to increase his confrontation with the West.”
Since the sources for this story are all in Kudrin’s own circle, it may be that it is an effort by this lobby to try to influence Putin and test the waters for such an appointment.
Responding to a query from reporters about the possible appointment of Kudrin, presidential administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “such information had not circulated” and said the Kremlin didn’t comment on “gossip about personnel,” reported.
But did find sources “close to the Kremlin” that said they had heard about such a likelihood but did not know of specific decisions. A “high-ranking federal official” said he had “not heard about such decisions” and couldn’t conceive of where Kudrin could be appointed.
Kudrin, credited with a number of measures that stabilized the Russian economy, left the administration in 2011 after a conflict with then-president Dmitry Medvedev over “redistribution of powers in the Finance Ministry,” said Moscow Times.

But the Wall Street Journal said he was fired after a public dressing-down by Medvedev, who told him he should not be airing his grievances in public.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick