Igor Sechin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin who was one of the most influential members of his cabinet, will continue playing a role in policy-making, Putin’s spokesman said on Tuesday.
“Igor Ivanovich [Sechin] cannot but have a role,” Dmitry Peskov told journalists when asked to comment on Sechin’s non-inclusion in Russia’s new government and presidential administration.
Most key members of the previous cabinet and Kremlin administration were kept on or appointed to new posts in this week’s government and presidential administration reshuffle in the wake of Putin’s May 7 return to the Kremlin for a third term.
But Sechin, a former deputy prime minister in charge of Russia’s energy complex who has also been seen as the informal leader of a group of powerful former security service officers and conservatives around Putin, was surprisingly left out of both the new cabinet and the presidential team. Sechin’s former government post went to Arkady Dvorkovich, a former presidential aide.
Sechin has long headed Russia’s biggest, state-run oil company Rosneft, and was appointed a board member of its parent company Rosneftegaz by Putin on his last day as prime minister.
Olga Mefodyeva from the Moscow-based Center of Political Technologies suggested that a decision not to give Sechin a key post at the current time was partly due to his “controversial image” among Russia’s liberals.
“Sechin is a delicate figure in Russia’s politics; he has always been seen as Putin’s strong hand in the energy complex,” Mefodyeva said.
She added that this meant his appointment to an influential post “may be considered unfavorable right now,” especially in light of the current unprecedented protests against Putin’s rule.
“He is a very significant figure, and finding a place for him is not easy – he can hardly be appointed someone’s deputy,” Mefodyeva said, adding that any such appointment “will be treated by the public as very symbolic.”
But Lilia Shevtsova from the Carnegie Moscow Center said Sechin’s formal absence from the new government and presidential administration would have “absolutely no effect” on his key role in governing Russia’s energy policies.
“Sechin’s non-inclusion in the government to avoid possible tensions with, say, [Prime Minister Dmitry] Medvedev or [First Deputy Prime Minster Igor] Shuvalov, does not indicate any change of balance within Putin’s team,” she said. “He will remain a powerful player, irrespective of his position on the chessboard.”
Shevtsova also said she believed all shifts in the Russian government were “insignificant” and “do not change Putin’s policies, which are aimed at maintaining the status quo.”