Shuffling Medvedev’s Deck

It’s hard to know what to think of the latest cabinet shuffle in Dmitry Medvedev’s Kremlin – it certainly falls short of the kind of blockbuster moves like Putin used to pull which would keep us talking for weeks (everybody remember Viktor Zukhov, and the rampant rumors that Valentina Matvienko or Dmitry Kozak was going to be the dark horse for the next presidency?).  This time nobody has been fired, or cornered into a regrettable self-imposed resignation (Fradkov), but rather Medvedev has a new head speechwriter, Eva Vasilevskaya, while others are saying that some of the Putinists are slowly getting sidelined.

Like everything else with the Medvedev administration, we still will have to wait to see any actions measure up to words.  From the Financial Times:

“Changing speechwriters is a fairly important event,” says Dmitry Badovski, deputy director of the Moscow-based Institute of Social Systems. “A speechwriter is a special role. It means someone closer to the inner circle than just a functional team. It’s someone you trust. It means Medvedev needs someone who speaks his internal language.” (…)

Both men have expressed interest in running for president in 2012, which has led to speculation that a rift may be developing that could be exacerbated if Mr Medvedev installed a new team in the Kremlin.

The Moscow daily newspaper Vedomosti on Wednesday indicated this might already be happening, citing a “Kremlin source” that the president’s chief of staff, Sergei Narishkin, one of the most powerful Putin-era officials in the Kremlin, was likely to leave soon. Another official told the Financial Times, however, that this was “conjecture”.