Vladimir Pribylovsky tells RFE/RF that the two murders by poisoning Konstantin Druzenko and Sergei Lomako are part of the spy wars between Viktor Cherkesov and Igor Sechin: “This is connected. … I have few doubts that this happened in the context of the [siloviki] war. And I don’t see peace breaking out.”
Whether or not there is a connection — and the evidence at this point is largely circumstantial — speculation about the deaths highlights mounting concerns that the high-stakes battle for power and influence among the Kremlin’s siloviki clans might be spinning out of control. The power struggle, analysts say, is largely being fueled by mounting uncertainty — and growing apprehension — over what will happen when Putin’s term ends next year.”The entire political system of Russia today is a struggle of various clans and groups fighting to see that Putin stays in power according to their scenario and not according to the scenario of their competitors,” Mikhail Delyagin, who served as an economic adviser under former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, recently told the news weekly “Itogi.”In this atmosphere, Cherkesov and his ally Viktor Zolotov, the head of the presidential security service, are trying to increase their power in the Kremlin at the expense of Sechin and his ally, Federal Security Service (FSB) chief Nikolai Patrushev.Related to this struggle for political power are the two sides’ conflicting commercial interests as they vie for control of Russia’s customs points. Such powers offer the possibility of collecting protection payments from firms engaged in smuggling and money laundering.”Cherkesov’s group is…the weakest among the siloviki,” says Andrei Soldatov, editor in chief of the online magazine agentura.ru and an expert on the security services. “Therefore, Cherkesov is trying to change this situation.”Soldatov and other analysts say one way Cherkesov is seeking to turn the tables is by gaining control of the newly formed Investigative Committee — a powerful law-enforcement agency that has assumed many of the functions of the Prosecutor-General’s Office. The Investigative Committee is currently headed by Aleksandr Bastrykin, who is allied with Sechin and Patrushev.Proposals are being floated to unify Russia’s myriad security, intelligence, and law-enforcement services under the Investigative Committee — making control of the agency a key asset at a time of increased political uncertainty.”If Cherkesov gets control of this new agency, then [his group] will become much stronger. If not, then they become marginalized. This is what the fight is over,” Soldatov says, adding that Cherkesov is also angling to be appointed Security Council secretary.