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A shuffling behind the Kremlin curtain again – Zhirinovsky

December 15, 2014

Today a post that has little to do with Ukraine directly, though it is an occurrence that cannot – or should not – go without notice in Ukraine nevertheless.

Yesterday it became apparent that Vladimir Zhirinovsky plans to stand aside as leader of the (far right) Liberal Democratic Party of Russia at the next party convention.

Quite something considering he was the founder of the party in 1990 – albeit with the encouragement and considerable assistance of the KGB 5th Directorate, and its then head Vladimir Kryuchkov, with Mr Zhirinovsky and party being placed under the guidance of General Filipp Bobkov – if the memoirs of Alexander Yakovlev, a senior politburo member at the time are to be believed – and there is no reason to doubt them.

The LDPR is technically an opposition party, with “opposition” being somewhat hollow in meaning under his leadership during the Putin epoch it has to be said.  That the LDPR failed – or perhaps didn’t fail, but did exactly what it was supposed to do – following the 1993 Russian White House incident perhaps underlines the KGB/FSB influence/infiltration of the more extreme far right and left of the political spectrum over decades, both domestically and further afield.  Whatever the case, 1993 can arguably be identified as the date when a new-born democracy in Russia was smothered at birth, and Mr Zhirinovsky and his LDPR did nothing to try and resuscitate it.

His decision to stand down occurs whilst there is clearly a move within Kremlin circles to “refresh” the middle management of State, drawing parallels – not necessarily entirely appropriately – with Stalin’s Class of ’37.  The Kremlin seemingly intent on dragging in “loyal talent” in from the provinces and installing them in the central State machinery.

Adding to this, it seems clear that Vladislav Surkov is quietly – if somewhat desperately – trying to dump the DNR/LPR/Donbas problem as swiftly as possible.  His staff tasked with interaction with/control of these regions resigning unexpectedly a week or so ago.  This perhaps explaining – in part – the current and most successful attempt at a ceasefire thus far in eastern Ukraine.

All in all, there seems to be evolutionary issues within the current Kremlin ecosystem.

So, is Mr Zhirinovsky’s move from the leadership of the LDPR a wise and timely move to obscurity – be that obscurity permanent or temporary whilst the Kremlin internal winds blow superficial changes?

Has he been advised by the Siloviki that created his party and his influence in preparation for the end of the USSR, that there is now a need for “new faces” – at least temporarily?  Being in no small part responsible for the suppression of both liberalism and democracy in Russia, despite the name of the political party he heads, does he now feel it is time to take the money and quietly go?

Can such a natural showman be content for a long in retirement shuffling about in some leafy suburban enclave, repressing his own instincts, far right rhetoric and eccentricities?

Who will be chosen to replace him as party leader?  Somebody less inclined to stir up the far right, less likely to upset the Eurasian Union partners/peoples?  Somebody more “moderate”?

Are other “old guard” political faces about to retire/exit the stage in another move to give the perception of a meaningful internal political recasting?  (Though successfully achieving that perception is very unlikely to succeed either domestically or internationally if that is the plan.)

Whilst Putinism has seemingly run bereft of ideas for reinvention, that does not mean Mr Putin is about to leave office any time soon.  When he does it will probably come due to a “Khrushchev moment” very quietly, or due to genuine ill-health/personal decision.  Closely watching the insider bellwethers such as Sergei Ivanov or Vladislav Surkov may give an indication as to the timing of the first – if it is ever to come.

Wizard-of-Oz-behind-the-curtain

Whatever the case, behind the Kremlin curtain the shuffling around continues, though it is doubtful as to how successful that resetting of the stage will be with any audience.  Mr Putin’s star begins to wane – that much is clear.  Whether Vladimir Zhirinovsky believes it will set beyond the horizon far more swiftly than most – or not – does not detract from this being a very interesting decision on his part.

For those who enjoy observing the sub-plots within the schemes, within the plans of the design – and pondering whether they are indeed of minor or significant relevance to the overall outcome – the internal maneuvering that will now begin is something to watch before the next LDPR conclave and subsequent successor announcement.

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