Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images

All the President’s Eunuchs

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been purging his closest and longest-serving advisers, replacing an old guard made up of relative equals with a new guard of loyal apparatchiks. A clear pattern has emerged: those who could speak to Putin as equals are being replaced by those whom he has created, and who owe their careers to him.

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin has been methodically purging his closest and longest-serving advisers. The latest – but surely not the last – victim is Sergei Ivanov, a former KGB operative (like Putin himself) and defense minister who has just been forced out as Kremlin chief of staff.

Ivanov, a relatively substantive policymaker, is being replaced by a toothless factotum: the former head of the Protocol Schedule Directorate, Anton Vaino. Likewise, the reform-minded education and science minister, Dmitry Livanov, has been fired and replaced with the faceless apparatchik Olga Vasilyeva, a rare woman appointee known only for her Stalinist views (imagine the French president handing an important cabinet position to a mid-level official from the far-right National Front).

As usual, Putin is offering no real explanation for these changes, leaving Kremlinologists – who have gained a new lease on life under Putin – little to work with other than a clear pattern: those who could speak to the president as equals are being replaced by those whom he has created, and who owe their careers to him.

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