“Apparently, Putin did not like the idea of taking a back seat,” said Russian political analyst Abbas Galyamov. “Therefore, Moscow Mayor was given a serious warning. The Kremlin propaganda quickly found all the shortcomings of the [Russian] capital's administration and chastised it.”
At the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic and social situation in Russia has changed significantly, causing shifts in the main political agenda in the country, too. For example, many experts have repeatedly called the restrictions imposed on Moscow residents by the local authorities not just excessively strict, but also aimed at stirring up social tensions in society. In this context, people have looked at the figure of the city’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin from a different perspective. Since he grabbed the biggest piece of work from Vladimir Putin during the struggle with the novel coronavirus, the already familiar opinion that Moscow Mayor is angling for the post of Russian President surfaced again.
For example, Abbas Galyamov, a well-known Russian political scientist, said in an interview with Business Online that there was a confrontation between Vladimir Putin and Sergei Sobyanin, which became very obvious in the conditions of the “coronavirus” crisis.
So, Galyamov shares the opinion that at the very beginning of the lockdown, Sobyanin actively gained scores, not only with the residents, but also with the federal government. However, later on, his active actions irritated the Kremlin and even triggered counter-moves on its part.
“Certanly, at first, Sobyanin managed to score a lot of points,” said Gallyamov. “He was the first in the country to recognize the threat and to make every effort to stand against the virus when it was denied by many. While other politicians, including Vladimir Putin, were still considering whether it would be reasonable to make changes to their usual strategies, Sobyanin had already begun to take some measures. At one point, there was a feeling that Moscow Mayor would become the main “savior of the country” after the epidemic.”
“Putin Doesn’t Like Idea of Taking Back Seat”
Galyamov believes that if this scenario was true, Sobyanin could turn from a person who is not perceived through the prism of more serious political ambitions, into a person who would be considered almost an alternative candidate for the role of successor to the incumbent President. Moreover, Moscow Mayor would be ahead of Putin in the popularity ratings.
“If this happened, it would raise Sergei Sobyanin’s status to the same level as the Russian President’s,” said Gallyamov. “In the process, the popularity rating of the latter would be falling, while that of Sobyanin would be growing. In this case, the issue of the successor's candidacy would be practically resolved, at least in the eyes of the Russians.”
In Galyamov’s opinion, it was the active actions of Moscow Mayor that allowed him to quickly occupy a large part of the political and information agenda, and caused the subsequent political confrontation between him and Putin.
“Apparently, Putin did not like the idea of taking a back seat,” said Russian political analyst Abbas Galyamov. “Therefore, Moscow Mayor was given a serious warning. The Kremlin propaganda quickly tracked down all the shortcomings of the [Russian] capital's administration and chastised it. At the same time, the Kremlin rapidly brought its “rescuers” into the game. They became an alternative to Sobyanin. For example, Mikhail Mishustin, who set up his own operational headquarters to combat COVID-19 in Sobyanin’s footsteps. Or Dmitry Medvedev, who quite unexpectedly decided to address the Russians. The main purpose of these actions was to demonstrate the fact that Sobyanin is not the only person in the country who is seeking to beat the virus. Even Putin himself had to step in despite the fact that he initially disappeared. It seems that he has never given so many televised addresses to the Russians before.”
Galyamov added that Sobyanin himself, as the object of this massive attack, quickly understood everything and, as they say, “backed off” so as to stop unnerving the federal center.
“Sobyanin rapidly understood everything and curtailed his efforts,” said Galyamov. “It was noticeable that Moscow administration began to take completely anti-populist measures, which only annoyed the people. The steps aimed to persuade Putin that Sobyanin has no serious political ambitions. The latter understands everything perfectly well. He is well aware that only one person can be an effective politician in Russia, and everyone else should remain technocrats.”