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POLITICS

The fall of the tower. Kremlin to replace cadres in charge of foreign policy

Sergey Kanev

According to The Insider's sources, the presidential administration is about to undergo a serious shakeup: a number of prominent figures in charge of foreign policy will be leaving their posts. Some of the forthcoming resignations include Yuri Ushakov, Putin's aide in charge of foreign policy; Igor Maslov, head of the Presidential Directorate for Interregional and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries; Valery Fedorov, overseer of the Transcaucasia; and Filipp Ilyichev, overseer of Africa and Israel. Their activities in recent years have been accompanied by humiliating failures.

ALL CARDS
  • More important than Lavrov

  • Africa overseer

  • CIS overseer

  • Transcaucasia overseer

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Formally, the replacement of some of those individuals can be explained by their age. For example, 75-year-old Yury Ushakov reached the maximum age allowed for a government official to remain in public service five years ago (the fact that, for some reason, has surfaced only recently). “Yuriy Viktorovich does not often appear in his office. You understand, he gets ill now and then. Currently the president needs people who can work hard and offer creative ideas in these uneasy times,” a source in the Presidential Administration explained to The Insider.

More important than Lavrov

Ushakov oversees many key foreign policy matters and manages personnel appointments at the Foreign Ministry on behalf of the president, much to the irritation of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov according to some sources. Late last year, Ushakov took an active part in preparing an ultimatum to NATO and the U.S., where the Kremlin demanded security guarantees and a ban on the alliance's eastern enlargement. Then, in May of this year, he “kept an eye” on the negotiations between Ukraine and Russia on the cessation of hostilities. As we know, neither was successful. Among Ushakov’s other failures is the recent CSTO summit in Yerevan, where Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan refused to sign the final declaration.

Vladimir Putin and Yuri Ushakov
Vladimir Putin and Yuri Ushakov

Ushakov’s position first became precarious back in 2017, when his closest aide Oleg Smolenkov, who had been passing top secret information to the CIA for a decade, fled to the West. But then Putin was persuaded that Smolenkov did not do much damage, and the president himself did not want to lose the key American expert in his entourage.

It appears that along with Ushakov, members of his team who had been working with him back in the day at the Russian embassy in the U.S. will also be resigning: Alexei Shilin, chief of his staff; Alexei Shishaev, deputy head of the Presidential Foreign Policy Directorate; and Konstantin Serednyakov, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's North American Department.

However, Ushakov will not be living in poverty after retirement - as journalists found out, his family owns several hundred million rubles’ worth of real estate, and his daughter Tatiana changes luxury cars like gloves.

One of Tatyana Ushakova's many Mercedes cars
One of Tatyana Ushakova's many Mercedes cars

Africa overseer

It is likely that Ushakov will be followed on his way out by Filipp Ilyichev, deputy head of the Presidential Foreign Policy Directorate, who became quite famous after a party in the reception room of Anton Vaino, head of the Presidential Administration, during the Covid 19 quarantine. The Presidential Directorate for Foreign Policy comprises American, European, Asian, African, Australian departments and even an Arctic overseer (Ivan Zhudro, who earlier used to work at Laundry № 55 in Moscow). In addition to international activities, PDFP officials, together with the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC), are involved in negotiations on supplies of Russian arms to friendly countries. Ilyichev is referred to in the Kremlin as the “overseer” for Africa and Israel, and his responsibilities include information gathering, analysis, preparation of official visits and lobbying of Rosoboronexport's interests in the countries he’s responsible for. In 2019, Ilyichev was a member of the organizing committee of the Russia-Africa summit, which was held with great pomp in Sochi.

The Africa overseer has numerous contacts in the governments of Algeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt and Libya. He is also said to be a close acquaintance of the now former South African President Jacob Zuma. In 1963, Zuma joined the South African Communist Party and received sabotage training at a militant base in Mozambique, where there were instructors from the GRU. He was then head of intelligence for the African National Congress (ANC) and returned to the home country after the fall of apartheid. During Zuma's presidency, South Africa joined the BRICS and pursued a foreign policy beneficial to the Kremlin.

Zuma and Putin
Zuma and Putin

However, these are hard times for the African “friend of the Kremlin”. At home Zuma was accused of numerous corruption crimes and since July 2021 he has been serving a 15-month prison term for refusing to testify in court. The current President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, while keeping in touch with Putin, has been noticeably drifting towards China, and Ilyichev has failed to establish business relations with him.

Filipp Ilyichyev
Filipp Ilyichyev

The results of the PDFP's activities in Israel, where the overwhelming majority of the population supports Ukraine, were also quite meager. With the help of the Russian embassy in Tel Aviv and the local branch of Rossotrudnichestvo and the GRU, they managed to mobilize two dozen people who paraded with Russian flags while being filmed on video cameras and shouted a couple of times: “Putin! Victory!”, and even those were natives of Moldova.

The Insider's source in the Presidential Administration found it difficult to say why exactly Ilyichev had to resign, but suggested that his resignation might be linked to the Kremlin's failed attempts to squeeze Ukraine’s wheat and corn supplies out of the African food market.

CIS overseer

In the lobbies and corridors of Staraya Square the imminent resignation of Igor Maslov, head of the Presidential Directorate for Inter-regional and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, is being discussed. There is even talk about the complete abolition of this Presidential Administration department. The Directorate for Relations with the Near-Abroad Countries was established in 2005, after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and since that time it has been successively headed by several former Foreign Intelligence (SVR) officers. “Culturologists” with shoulder boards actively interfere in the political life of the CIS countries, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, recruiting politicians, journalists, and were quite noticeable in several election campaigns when they financed pro-Kremlin opposition. For example, in Georgia, where the Kremlin supported the Alliance of Georgian Patriots, although during the recent parliamentary elections that marginal party got only 3.14% of the vote.

Previously, Colonel Maslov had served at the SVR’s Balkan and Austrian stations, before being invited to join the Presidential Administration, where he headed the “Moldovan department.” During the 2021 presidential elections in Moldova Maslov coordinated the work of pre-election headquarters of Moscow's protégé Igor Dodon and reported to the leadership about the latter’s inevitable victory. However, contrary to all the rosy forecasts, pro-European politician Maia Sandu won the election.

“After Mrs. Sandu's victory, the Presidential Administration was in a state of shock. The man blew the election, and everyone was waiting for his dismissal. But, to everyone's surprise, Igor Venediktovich was promoted to the head of the entire Directorate,” a source from Staraya Square told The Insider.

Igor Maslov on vacation
Igor Maslov on vacation

Meanwhile, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, most of the Kremlin's propaganda projects in the CIS countries had to be curtailed, joint seminars and visits were cancelled because, as one of the Directorate’s employees put it, “people shunned us”. In fact, the entire Kremlin Directorate with a huge budget is only dealing with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Maslov is still welcomed with open arms.

Igor Maslov and the President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania
Igor Maslov and the President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania

Transcaucasia overseer

It is quite possible that Maslov's deputy, head of the Planning Department Valery Maksimov, who has been on the sidelines for a while now, will also leave the Presidential Administration. An ex-FSB colonel, Maksimov graduated from the Moscow Border Guards Higher Command School of the Soviet KGB (now the FSB’s Moscow Border Guards Institute) and then served in operational positions in the Central, Central Asian, and Northeast regions of the country. In 1995 he was transferred to the FSB’s central office as head of department. In 2006, the then Head of the Directorate for Relations with the Near-Abroad Countries Modest Kolerov, invited the FSB officer to oversee Transcaucasia.

Valery Maksimov (far left)
Valery Maksimov (far left)

Colonel Maksimov is called the “godfather” of the well-known propagandist Sergei Mikheev, who regularly appears on Vladimir Solovyov's TV show. Before becoming the Kremlin's camp follower, Mikheev participated in election campaigns in Latvia, Kazakhstan, Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Kyrgyzstan and then sent progress reports to his handler Maksimov. The Insider has at its disposal Mikheev's memorandums about his secret meetings with Iranian officials, as well as complaints about the poor quality of the dollars he was given at the Presidential Administration.

Sergey Mikheev, a propagandist at the beck and call of the Presidential Administration
Sergey Mikheev, a propagandist at the beck and call of the Presidential Administration

In recent years, Colonel Maksimov led a large team of pro-Kremlin agents of influence in Transcaucasia, but with the beginning of aggression against Ukraine, the network fell apart, and some “friends of the Kremlin” refused to cooperate, citing the atrocities of Russian troops in the neighboring country. On top of everything else, the PA now has some qualms about the former FSB officer: from his work computer Maksimov has been actively corresponding with girls with of social responsibility (as Putin calls them) and setting up meetings with them in his official car near the Presidential Administration.

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