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Who are Russia’s new cabinet members? Part two: the ministers

Source: Meduza

On January 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the new executive cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The appointments were part of a major shakeup in the country’s government that will help determine Putin’s future and the future of Russia’s constitutional system. In this two-part series, Meduza profiles each of the country’s new cabinet members in brief.

Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov

Sergey Karpukhin / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

One of multiple alumni of Sergey Sobyanin’s mayoral administration in the new government, Maxim Reshetnikov was born and raised in Perm. Unlike his predecessors at the helm of the Economic Development Ministry, Alexey Ulyukayev and Maxim Oreshkin, Reshetnikov has never been an academic scholar of economics or an investment banker. Almost all of his career has been spent in regional governance (though he does have a doctorate degree from 2003 with a dissertation —again — on regional economic management).

Reshetnikov’s career began in his hometown, first at the IT company Prognoz, which produced technological solutions for government agencies, and then in the regional executive branch. There, in various positions, he planned budgets, managed interagency relations, and led then-Governor Oleg Chirkunov’s administration (2004-2012). Chirkunov called his subordinate “a rational supporter of competitive growth and market principles in economics.”

When Sergey Sobyanin became the mayor of Moscow, Reshetnikov found work in the executive branch there, eventually taking over the city’s economic policy department. It soon fell to him to manage a large regional economy during Russia’s economic crisis, which began sooner in Moscow than in other regions due to a 2013 decision cutting off the city’s tax revenue stream from oil profits. Later on, with the capital’s income restored, Reshetnikov continued his work in a time of plenty.

It was Reshetnikov who wrote up Moscow’s investment strategy in 2014. He said at the time that the program’s central idea was to replace private investment in housing construction (to which the city’s funds for building infrastructure, hospitals, and schools were to be added) with investments intended to create high-capacity jobs for Moscow residents.

Reshetnikov was also responsible for the street trade reforms that led the city government to raze more than a hundred “illegal structures” — that is, small street shops — in an event known as “the night of the backhoes.” The economic official explained that decision as an attempt to improve Moscow’s investment climate by cleaning up the city and making its streets appear more orderly.

Under Reshetnikov, Moscow also saw the introduction of sales taxes, a patent system for individual contractors, and increased property taxes for luxury apartment owners.

Following Reshetnikov’s move into the Moscow government, Prognoz, the IT company where he had worked, became one of City Hall’s key contractors for the communications systems and electronic services in the city such as the Nash Gorod (Our City) and Elektronny Dnevnik (Electronic Gradebook) projects.

In 2017, Reshetnikov became the acting governor of Perm Krai, and he later took over the governor’s post permanently. In that same year, he joined the nationally dominant United Russia party, entering the party’s supreme council the following year.

Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova

Vyacheslav Prokofyev / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

For the past two years, Lyubimova has led the Culture Ministry’s film department. Under her watch, the bureau published details of its funding for commercial films for the first time, revealing that from 2015 through 2019, only 30 government-supported films out of 340 were commercially successful. “We’re actually lashing ourselves and taking on a frightening amount of responsibility,” Lyubimova told Meduza when asked to comment on the situation. “On a legal level, we’re not obligated to reveal anything except in cases where there’s a specific request, whether from a journalist or a deputy or somebody else. The fact that the database can be seen by any citizen or enjoyed by any blogger is a situation that’s unique to us — there’s nothing like it in the world.”

The future culture minister studied first in a Russian Orthodox prep school and then in Moscow State University’s journalism department and the theater department at the Russian Institute of Theater Arts. According to Lyubimova herself, her prep school experience was like “an al-Qaeda camp,” and it led her to decide against going into the church. Nonetheless, as a university student, she changed her mind and began working for the Russian Orthodox Church’s news agency. Lyubimova said her change of heart and her return to the faith occurred after an encounter with Patriarch Alexy II: “I saw a lonely, moving, wise elder who didn’t like to talk, who didn’t like publicity or fuss, but who loved God’s liturgy more than anything else in the world — someone who loved to serve.”

In 2015, Lyubimova became an advisor in the Culture Ministry’s film department, and in 2016, she left to take over Channel One’s social programming and publicity wing. On January 18, 2018, then-Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky brought her back to the film department as acting director, emphasizing that his new colleague was “our own flesh and blood in the industry.”

Lyubimova made her mark in her new role through a number of news stories, from the 2018 license revocation that kept The Death of Stalin out of Russian theaters to a proposed initiative limiting any foreign film’s screenings to 35 percent of a given theater’s daily showings. By late 2019, that idea had been introduced into the State Duma as a bill, albeit in a slightly edited form. Under Lyubimova, the film department also faced accusations of excessive stringency in its control over public funding for new movies.

Lyubimova’s declared income in 2018 was slightly over 2.4 million rubles ($39,000), RBC reported. She is the daughter of Boris Lyubimov, the acting rector of the Mikhail Shchepkin Higher Theater School, and has two school-aged children.

Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov

Emin Dzhafarov / Kommersant

Kravtsov’s training is in pedagogy, and he works as a math and informatics teacher. However, he has kept up close ties with education administration work throughout his career, working in various positions at the Russian Academy of Education and the Education Ministry. In 2013, he took over Rosobnadzor, Russia’s monitoring agency for education, and during his tenure, the body became one of the most important organizations in the Russian educational system. Rosobnadzor now runs the country’s high school exit exam, its general education exams, and its annual standardized tests for schoolchildren.

Under Kravtsov, the agency drew criticism for withdrawing the accreditations of major higher education institutions like the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (known as Shaninka) and the European University at St. Petersburg. Activists from the education advocacy group Dissernet also accused Rosobnadzor of protecting plagiarized dissertations from academic penalties and of writing plagiarized research themselves.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko

Dmitry Korotayev / Kommersant

Russia’s new health minister has directed the country’s health monitoring agency, Roszdravnadzor, since 2013. He graduated from the Ural State Medical Institute before studying to become an OB/GYN. Just four years after finishing his second degree, Murashko found himself occupying leading roles in some of the Komi Republic’s most prestigious medical organizations. He later became the region’s health minister and spent five years in the role. In 2011, when he was no longer health minister, Murashko was a witness in a case alleging that the prices of government-purchased CAT scanners in Komi had been artificially inflated. However, he did not attend every court hearing in the case, which ultimately ended in acquittal.

In 2012, Murashko became the deputy head of Roszdravnadzor’s federal headquarters only to be promoted to acting director within less than a year. He received a permanent appointment to the role in 2015.

At Roszdravnadzor, Murashko has advocated on multiple occasions for amping up government regulation of the private health sector. Together with the Health Ministry, Roszdravnadzor worked to introduce a system of mandatory drug labeling in the industry. Experts predict that change will lower the quantity of counterfeit and misrepresented medications on the market. Back in 2013, Murashko proposed establishing criminal penalties for producing fake medicine, and that proposal eventually became reality.

Earlier this year, Mikhail Murashko spoke out against the excessive prosecution of doctors, saying criminal cases against the medical community should be minimalized. His statement came after a string of charges against medical professionals that sparked anger from opposition groups around Russia.

Digital Development, Communications, and Mass Media Minister Maksut Shadayev

Andrey Zhabin / Press Service of the Governor of the Moscow Region

Now entering the federal cabinet at the tender age of 40, Russia’s new digital development minister has already worked in major IT companies as well as government posts, including jobs at the ministry he will now lead.

In 2004, Shadayev graduated from Moscow State Social University. As a student, he had a side job for a few years at the IT company IBS, whose central founder is the millionaire Anatoly Karachinsky. At IBS, Shadayev eventually worked his way up to the title of business development director. He then left to advise the CEO of the Ascent National Research Institute, which modernizes IT systems at government agencies under the Communications Ministry’s umbrella. After that job, Shadayev worked for several years as an advisor for Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, and then he joined Sergey Naryshkin’s team. At the time, Naryshkin was the president’s chief of staff, and he took Shadayev with him when he became speaker of the State Duma. Now, Naryshkin leads Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

In 2014, Shadayev was appointed to become the Moscow region’s minister of state management, information technologies, and communications. Governor Andrey Vorobyov described Shadayev at the time as a specialist who had “collaborated, worked, consulted, and helped” the regional government for more than a year. “Today, in the 21st century, IT modernization, the automatization of [government] processes, and electronic document handling allow us to make our work more effective. So Mr. Shadayev will not only propose all that is intelligent and contemporary — he’ll instill it in us,” Vorobyov declared.

In 2017, it came to light that, during his time as a suburban Moscow minister, Shadayev had also advised Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Sergey Kirienko. The IT expert had been called upon to help “coordinate information politics in regional government agencies and on social media.”

When asked to comment on Shadayev’s latest side gig to the newspaper Kommersant, the political scientist Andrey Kolyadin said the regional minister wasn’t “just a pro at information technology” — he also “knows the bureaucratic world.” “They absolutely need a navigating officer for the Internet because it’s not just a fast-changing world, it’s an increasingly politicized one. During an election year, you can’t get by without working on the Internet,” Kolyadin explained.

In 2018, Shadayev left the Moscow regional government for the state telecommunications provider Rostelekom, where he was the vice president for digital platforms. He was still in that role when he was appointed to Mikhail Mishustin’s new cabinet.

Profiles by Anastasia Yakoreva, Natalya Gredina, Ivan Golunov, Maria Kolomychenko, Dmitry Kuznets, and Daria Sarkisyan

Translation by Hilah Kohen

Cover photo: Dmitry Astakhov / Pool / TASS / Scanpix / LETA