After Wagner’s rebellion… Talks are back again discussing Putin’s inner circle


Vladimir Putin has always seemed to have final word in Russian politics, but he relies on an inner circle that includes many who launched their careers in Russia’s security services.

Wagner’s chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was a close and powerful ally, but he had never been part of that circle.

For months, Prigozhin was in heavy showdown with both, the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Armed Forces chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.

If Putin is listening to anyone, it must be his friend, the defense minister, who is a longtime confidant.

They both used to have activates together such as going to hunting and fishing trips in Siberia.

Nevertheless, Sergei Shoigu is popular and respected in Russia, some say he was seen as a possible successor to Putin.

As for Valery Gerasimov – the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, his job was to get the job done in Ukraine fast and easy, and by that standard, obviously he didn’t get the job done.

However, there’s a reason he’s the longest-serving chief of staff since Soviet times, and that maybe because Putin trusts him.

Gerasimov played a major role in Russia’s military campaigns since he commanded an army in the Chechen war in 1999 and was at the forefront of military planning for Ukraine as well, supervising pre-war military maneuvers in Belarus.

General Gerasimov was often described as “unsmiling and rough” had a key role in the military campaign to annex Crimea.

At the start of the Ukraine war, there was talk of possibly replacing him due to the stuttering start to the war.

Gerasimov didn’t appear at the annual Victory military parade in Moscow in May 2022.

However, in January this year he appointed commander of forces in Ukraine, replacing General Sergei Surovkin, who is now his deputy.

It wise to say that Putin cannot control every road and every battalion, and that is the role of Gerasimov.

The other official in Putin’s inner circle is Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary General of the Russian National Security Council.

Patrushev considered as a hawk, according to Russian affairs experts, as his doctrine is based on that the West has been trying to control and defeat Russia for years.

Patrushev is one of three Putin loyalists who have served with him since the 1970s in St Petersburg, when Russia’s second city was still known as Leningrad.

The other two supporters are the head of the Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, and the head of the foreign intelligence service, Sergei Naryshkin.

All of the president’s inner circle are known as “Siloviki,” or enforcers, but this trio is closer to the president than all the others.

Few have as much influence over president Putin as Nikolai Patrushev, not only did he work with him on the State Security Committee during the communist era, he replaced him as head of its successor organization, the Russian Federal Security Service, from 1999 to 2008.

During a bizarre meeting of the Russian Security Council, three days before the war in Ukraine began; Patrushev advanced his view that the “concrete goal” of the United States was the disintegration of Russia.

He has since accused the US of preparing “biological warfare” and has accused both Washington and London of leading the West in hopes of defeating Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev, who holds the position of Deputy Chairman of the National Security Council, Putin’s close friend, and former President of Russia, and previously held the position of Prime Minister.

At the beginning of Putin’s accession to power, Medvedev handed over the task of managing the Gazprom Company, after it had been nationalized, and later he became the number two man in Russia.

Many see him as one of the candidates closest to Putin and his successor, and he considered a hawk in the circle of the Russian president, which is evident through his increasingly sharp opinions and statements towards the West and the United States, especially in recent times since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

The other Russian official in the list is, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russian Federal Security Service.

Putin trusts information he receives from the security services more than any other source, and Bortnikov seen as part of Putin’s inner sanctuary.

Bortnikov is another longtime member of the Leningrad State Security Committee, who took over the leadership of Russia’s replacement FSB when Nikolai Patrushev left office.

The FSB wields great influence over other law enforcement agencies and even has its own forces.

Bortnikov is important, but he’s not there to challenge or advise the Russian leader like others, according to Russian affairs experts.

Then it comes Sergey Naryshkin, the Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service.

Complementing the triumvirate of Leningrad old boys, Sergei Naryshkin has been at Putin’s side for most of his career.

That didn’t prevent President Putin from scolding him in front of the cameras when he forgot what to say when asked about his assessment of the situation before the Ukraine war.

The video of the lengthy session broadcasted as it is without editing, so it can be said that the Kremlin clearly decided to show Naryshkin’s discomfort to a large television audience.

Sergei Naryshkin first served as Putin’s shadow in St. Petersburg in the 1990s, then in Putin’s office in 2004 and eventually became parliament speaker.

However, he also heads the Russian Historical Society and has proved important in providing the president with ideological reasons for his actions.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov is in the list of Putin’s men, without a doubt, as he was Russia’s most senior diplomat for 19 years, presenting Russia’s cause to the world, even if he wasn’t seen as having a major role in decision-making.

Sergey Lavrov, 73, is further evidence that Vladimir Putin relies heavily on figures from his past.

Although he has been loyal to Putin from the start, he’s not believed to have any role in decision-making over Ukraine.

His mission is to gain support for Russia in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere and to promote his country’s image.

The Director of the National Guard, Viktor Zolotov is indeed in the inner circle.

A former bodyguard to the president, he now leads the Russian National Guard, which President Putin formed in 2016 as a sort of personal army to defend the Authority.

By choosing his personal security guard to lead the National Guard, Putin assured his loyalty, and Viktor Zolotov increased the National Guard to 400,000 soldier.

Although he had no military background, the National Guard tasked with a wide range of tasks to control the areas that been captured in Ukraine behind the front line.

Britain’s Defense Intelligence Service said Russian security forces and in particular, the National Guard would be key to how the Prigozhin crisis ended.

Lastly, Valentina Matviyenko the Chairperson of the Federation Council is the rare female face in Putin’s entourage.

She oversaw the Senate vote to authorize Russian troop deployments abroad, setting the stage for the Ukraine War.

She’s another Putin loyalist from St. Petersburg, Valentina Matvienko also helped direct the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

She isn’t considered a primary decision maker, therefore, few people can say with complete certainty who makes important and major decisions in Russia.

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen President, might be in the list, due to his recent increasing role, due to the participation of his “Kadirovtsy” forces in the Ukrainian war, in addition to his quick intervention to stand by the Russian president and his dispatch of forces to each of the city of Rostov and the Russian capital during the recent Wagner rebellion.

Honoree mentioned the Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has the unenviable task of saving the economy, but he has little to say when it comes to war.

Elvira Nabiullina, the head of Russia’s central bank considered to be the mastermind that keeping the Russian economy all-together, and the Russian currency stable under the heavy burden of Ukraine war costs, and the piles of western sanctions against Russia.

Some may say that she has no role in war decision-making, however who’s really believe in a war without economy, is living in his own La La land.

Dmitry Peskov may be close to the Russian president being his official spokesperson, so he may have a place in the president’s circle but he has little to offer regarding the war.

Perhaps, some people remember a statement by the Russian President, who was answering question from a journalist about a statement made by Peskov, as the Russian president replied, as a matter of humor perhaps, “I sometimes wonder where Peskov comes from with his statements!”

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and the head of state oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin, are also close to the Russian president.

Billionaire brothers Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, coming from Jewish family, like the prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin.

The Rotenberg brothers were childhood friends of the Russian president, have also long been close.

In 2020, Forbes magazine ranked them as the richest family in Russia.

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