Today marks the one-year anniversary of President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration. Some of the Russian media not on vacation–Russians enjoy a number of days off between two official holidays–May 1 and May 9–have used the date as a jumping-off point for speculation about Putin’s future plans. The newspaper Kommersant quoted an unnamed “high-level Kremlin source” as saying it was highly probable that a new round of cabinet changes would take place before the end of May, in parallel with “serious structural changes in the government.” In late March, Putin reshuffled the so-called “power ministers,” and while Kommersant did not indicate what posts might be affected in the next reshuffle, observers have long predicted that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov might be replaced. The newspaper, again citing unnamed sources, stated that this new round of cabinet changes might be followed by a third round, which would take place before the end of the year and effectively remove the remaining top-level officials from the Yeltsin era, including those in the Kremlin administration. Again, while the paper did not specify anyone in particular, the third round of changes, if it takes place, would apparently target Kremlin administration head Aleksandr Voloshin for removal (Kommersant, May 7).
The Kremlin has not planned any events to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Putin’s inauguration, but an estimated 10,000 young people marched and rallied in Moscow today in support of Putin. The demonstration was organized by a new pro-Putin youth movement called Idushiye V’mestye (roughly translated as Walking Together). Over the weekend, a group of TV-6 journalists was on hand when activists from the movement signed up new members, each of whom received a T-shirt bearing a portrait of the Russian president. The activists claimed that 500 young people a day had been seeking membership but that only four out of five were being accepted. The movement, which is led by Vasily Yakimenko, who earlier worked in the presidential administration overseeing relations with youth organizations, is divided into smaller sub-groups. Each of these has its own leader, who is responsible for the behavior of its members and ensuring that they appear at political and cultural events. The movement is governed by a so-called moral code requiring its members not to drink, swear or torture animals, and to be “active citizens.” It also stresses patriotic values. “Our organization provides cultural recreation for youth,” a member of the movement told TV-6. “Instead of hanging around basements, shooting narcotics… we prefer to go to the theatre and watch a performance” (NTV.ru, May 6). The new pro-Putin movement would appear to be an alternative to the youth group set up last year by the pro-Putin Unity party (see the Monitor, April 27, 2000). Putin, meanwhile, turned up yesterday at an international martial arts tournament for young people in Moscow. It was organized by the Victory committee, which Putin himself set up last year for the purpose of promoting patriotic education and creating a positive international image for Russia (NTV.ru, May 6). Earlier this year the government promulgated a decree entitled “On the start of universal patriotic education,” which, critics charge. establishes what amounts to ideological education for youth (see the Monitor, March 1).
GAZPROM FORMALLY WINS CONTROLLING STAKE IN NTV.