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Vladimir Putin meets with his new cabinet

‘Putin always chooses the best’ Here’s how the Kremlin wants its propagandists to cover Russia’s cabinet shakeup

Source: Meduza
Vladimir Putin meets with his new cabinet
Vladimir Putin meets with his new cabinet
Vyacheslav Prokofyev / Russian Presidential Administration / ZUMA Press Wire / Scanpix / LETA

As the dust settles on Vladimir Putin’s post-inauguration cabinet reshuffle, the presidential administration has issued a new set of media guidelines for its propagandists. Documents obtained by Meduza show that the Putin administration has instructed Russian state-controlled and pro-Kremlin media outlets to focus their coverage on a very particular set of changes in the government. 

The guidelines make no mention of Putin’s decision to replace his longtime Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu with economist Andrey Belousov (though it’s possible that these instructions are contained in a separate document). Instead, the guidelines Meduza obtained highlight the following former regional governors who were promoted to ministerial positions:

  • Industry and Trade Minister Anton Alikhanov, the former governor of Kaliningrad
  • Minister of Sport Mikhail Degtyarev, the former Khabarovsk Krai governor
  • Transport Minister Roman Starovoyt, the former Kursk regional governor
  • Energy Minister Sergey Tsivilev, the former Kemerovo regional governor who happens to be married to Putin’s cousin’s daughter, Anna Tsivileva (née Putina).

Per the instructions, the Putin administration “recommends” underscoring that these ministers earned their promotions through “effective work.” For example, the document says that Sergey Tsivilev “proved himself” by “managing a complex region with its own specifications” — without providing further details. It makes no mention of the corruption scandals linked to the Tsivilev family or their ties to Putin. 


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Likewise, the guidelines fail to mention Roman Starovoyt’s ties to billionaire brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg — two of Putin’s closest friends. Instead, the document describes Starovoyt as “battle-tested,” since the Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, is “on the front line” and regularly comes under shelling. 

In the case of Mikhail Degtyarev, the document describes the former Khabarovsk Krai governor’s experience “leading a complex region” and “gaining voter support.” It provides no details on the “complexities” in question, failing to mention that Degtyarev replaced former Khabarovsk Governor Sergey Furgal, whose arrest sparked mass anti-government protests in the region in 2020–2021. 

The instructions also suggest playing up the fact that Starovoyt and Degtyarev are graduates of the “school of governors,” as the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) is colloquially known. The guidelines describe the “school of governors” as a “real pillar of support for the president,” while highlighting that the acting governors Putin appointed as replacements are all current or former RANEPA students. 

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Finally, Anton Alikhanov is presented as “one of [Russia’s] youngest governors” (at 37, Alikhanov is just slightly older than Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug Governor Dmitry Artyukhov, who just turned 36). The guidelines also instruct propagandists to mention that Alikhanov acts as a mentor for the Leaders of Russia competition, one of domestic policy czar Sergey Kiriyenko’s pet projects. 

Pro-Kremlin media are also supposed to emphasize the “success” of Putin’s personnel policy. “[Putin] always chooses the best,“ the document says. “His selection of candidates for leadership positions has always been unerring and thoughtful.” 

The manual neglects to mention the fact that some of Putin’s former appointees have become embroiled in corruption cases or caused conflicts within his inner circle. Or the fact that one of Putin’s close allies — the late Evgeny Prigozhin — staged an armed mutiny just last year. 

Reporting by Andrey Pertsev 

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