Date: 31 May 2017

The Succession Mystery

Vladimir Putin has still not revealed whether he will stand in the presidential elections in March 2018. His silence gives rise to a growing number of rumours about the president’s health and speculations that he might opt for the “Yeltsin scenario” after all. This would mean picking a carefully selected candidate to ensure that the president and his allies remain untouchable.


Uncertainty as to the future of the Kremlin host is not good for the country. The entire bureaucratic machine came to a standstill in anticipation of how events will unfold. Officials in various institutions rarely plan beyond the end of this year. The longer the state of uncertainty continues, the worse for Russia. During a recent summit in Beijing, Putin was asked if it wasn’t about time to reveal election plans. The answer was brief: “No”. Putin is reluctant to talk about the issue and avoids it. His entourage does the same. This only reinforces rumours about the president’s health problems (on 7 October, he will turn 65).

Under these circumstances, the question of a successor emerges. PM Dmitri Medvedev and the governor of Tula, Alexey Dyumin (former commander of the special operation forces of Russia’s army, and previously Putin’s security officer) seem to be favourites. The names of Sergei Ivanov, Sergey Shoygu, Sergey Lavrov, Vyacheslav Volodin, Yuri Trutniev, Anton Vaino, and Sergey Kiriyenko are also mentioned. The last two, the president’s head and deputy head of administration, respectively, however, appear rather destined for the prime minister post.

But if Putin were indeed to replay the scenario once used by Boris Yeltsin, it would be natural for the future president to be first appointed prime minister. In this context, Vaino emerges more and more as the frontrunner. He enjoys support of the Rotenberg brothers and Sergey Chemezov. Who is the current head of the president’s administration (since August 2016)? Anton Vaino was born in 1972 in a family of Estonian communists. In 1978-1988, his grandfather, Karl Vaino, was head of the Estonian Communist Party. Anton graduated from the MGIMO (university considered as forge of government staff) and served as a diplomat. He worked as attaché in the embassy in Tokyo (1996-2001). Member of the president’s administration staff since 2002, concerned with international cooperation. He followed Putin to the government and returned to the Kremlin in 2012 as deputy head of the president’s administration. Vaino also served as Putin’s chief of protocol. It would be hard to find anyone who would be closer to the president. The president’s head of administration was responsible for take-over of responsibilities by Putin in the power structures already on two occasions: firstly, when he was relocating from the Kremlin to the White House (seat of Russian government) in 2008, and secondly when he made the opposite move back to the Kremlin in 2012.

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