Nine top security officials lost their jobs in Russia this week, five of whom had been appointed by the previous president, Dmitri Medvedev, between 2008 and 2012.
Among those were the head of Russia’s witness protection program and two police chiefs in the regions of Omsk and Tomsk.
The changes come only weeks after Vladimir Putin, who returned to the presidency in 2012, replaced the long-time head of the Federal Protection Service (FSO), Evgeni Murov. The organization is somewhat comparable to America’s Secret Service in that is responsible for the protection of federal officials and property, but its full purview is ambiguous.
Health problems were said to play a role in the removal of the septuagenarian Murov, but Russia watchers also saw his agency getting the short end of the stick in a contest with the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB spy agency Putin himself served in.
Murov’s replacement came only a month after Putin created a brand new paramilitary service, the National Guard, which answers directly to the Kremlin as opposed to any minister. With an avowed Putin loyalist, Viktor Zolotov, at its head, this new organization has all the trappings of a Praetorian Guard.
These various moves suggest Putin is worried enough about his position to take preemptive action.
Both the new FSO and National Guard chiefs owe their fealty to him. Medvedev, still perhaps the most likely potential successor should Putin ever be removed in a palace coup, now has fewer high-ranking officials he can call on for favors.
All this, of course, comes against the backdrop of Russia’s economic crisis, aggravated by low oil prices and Western sanctions, the effects of which have been reverberating around the political sphere.
András Tóth-Czifra, an occasional Atlantic Sentinel contributor, wrote last year that people were getting frustrated on different levels of the “power vertical”.
Uneasy decisions on scarce money costing key people their jobs. Corruption scandals getting to the higher echelons of the Russian elite. Power struggles slipping out of control.
It doesn’t seem to be letting up.