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The goalie who lets pass Putin's pucks What little we know about Tula's new interim governor, Alexei Dyumin

Source: Meduza
Photo: Dmitry Azarov / Kommersant

In early February 2016, Vladimir Putin dismissed Tula Governor Vladimir Gruzdev. His interim replacement is a man named Alexei Dyumin, who previously served as Russia's deputy defense minister. Dyumin is not a public figure. The first time a major news agency ever mentioned his name was just a month ago, in January 2016. To date, the public knows him best for playing ice hockey with President Putin. Meduza reviews what little else we know about the man now governing the Tula oblast and its 1.5 million inhabitants. 

Dyumin has ties to the FSO. His career is most closely connected to the Federal Security Guard Service (FSO), which ensures the safety of the Russian president. Indeed, just before Alexei Dyumin was assigned his interim governorship, he served under Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Defense Ministry for little more than a month. At the ministry, he was meant to oversee the Department for Construction, Housing Procurement, and Medicine. Prior to his brief stint at the Defense Ministry, Dyumin worked for the FSO and accompanied Putin on numerous trips.

In 2012, however, Dyumin shot through the ranks at the FSO to become its deputy head. (Whatever Dyumin's duties were in this post, they're still classified today.) The newspaper Kommersant quotes an anonymous source saying he both oversaw the evacuation of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to Russia and took part in the annexation of Crimea.

How exactly Dyumin succeeded in building such a career for himself is not known. Documents from the upper house of Russia's parliament note that a certain Gennady Dyumin is chief of the 4th Office for the Central Military Medical Directorate. However, it is unknown whether Gennady and Alexei are in fact related.

But not just the FSO. Dyumin's energies are not solely dedicated to “The Service.” Tula's interim governor also loves ice hockey. When he hits the ice, it's sometimes with Dfense Minister Shoigu, the influential Rotenberg brothers, and Vladimir Putin. Dyumin is known to play the goalie.

Kommersant's special correspondent Andrey Kolesnikov said of a game featuring both Putin and Dyumin, “I will hazard the observation that not only does Putin's entire team play hard for him, but so does the opposing team. At times, the goalkeeper displayed extraordinary skills diving from the path of flying presidential pucks.”

Dyumin has ties to St. Petersburg's professional ice hockey. He is also involved in the dealings of the SKA St. Petersburg Ice Hockey Team. St. Petersburg is Vladimir Putin's home town. During the Soviet era, SKA (along with CSKA Moscow) belonged to the Ministry of Defense sports club system and consisted of Leningrad (that is, St. Petersburg) Military District officers. The acronym literally stands for “Sports Club of the Army.”

The team has many ties to the entourage that surrounds Putin. SKA's main sponsor is Gazprom and its top managers are the billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko and a billionaire's son, Roman Rothenberg. The hockey team's matches are attended by Igor Sechin (a former deputy prime minister in Putin's cabinet, and now executive chairman of Rosneft, and a sponsor for St. Petersburg's football team). In 2012, Dyumin became one of Timchenko's advisors to SKA. It's unclear, however, what kind of advice he offers Timchenko or the team.

Dyumin was fingered for a promotion years ago. Rumors about his importance have circulated for some time now. In 2014, a website called Vek, which has a reputation for using unreliable sources, reported without any proof that Dyumin was one of the main contenders to head the President's security service, the FSO. The website said the FSO's current head, Yevgeny Murov, would be retiring soon. This has yet to happen. “As far as we know, [Dyumin] only has the rank of colonel, although it is possible this information is already out of date,” the website said. In January 2016, the news agency RIA Novosti reported that Dyumin held the rank of Lieutenant-General.

Dyumin is an outsider in Tula, but he's buddy-buddy with the last governor. He has no prior connections to the Tula region. He was born in the city of Kursk, a region bordering Ukraine. It's unknown where he went to school, though he possibly received a degree from the Presidential Academy of Public Administration in Moscow. The academy's records show a student named Alexey G. Dyumin who defended a thesis titled “The Political Aspects of Global Governance Within the Framework of G8 Cooperation.” From a professional experience standpoint, the Tula region may not be so foreign to Dyumin. Several dozen defense companies are located there, making up a large portion of its industrial output. There are also closed military towns and rest spas and resorts specially reserved for the military. In an interview with Kommersant, Dyumin revealed that he is longtime friends with former Tula Governor Vladimir Gruzdev, saying they are on good terms.

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