Prigozhin’s attempted mutiny may trigger personnel rotations in the Russian establishment. The current government configuration does not cope with the challenges brought by the war. It does not have an adequate plan for a peaceful settlement and a strategic vision of the state’s development.
An additional factor for personnel changes is the approach of the constitutional deadline for holding presidential elections. Before the coup attempt, the main version of the development of the event was the re-election of Putin and the subsequent preservation of the regime. Now discussions about the possibility of a transition of power have resumed. For Russian elites, this hardly means the renewed regime will be more peaceful or open to the world. It will strengthen groups related to special services and form a more effective model of management of the Russian Federation.
One of the favourites to occupy high positions in the central government is Alexey Dyumin, the governor of the Tula region. He has experience in the Federal Security Service, the Department of Defense and is considered an effective governor. Among the possible positions that he may occupy shortly is the chair of the Minister of Defense or the Prime Minister, and his candidacy is also named among the likely candidates for the position of the President of the Russian Federation in the event of a decision on the transition of power.
Biography and experience
Alexey’s father is G.V. Dyumin, military medic, general, and head of the 4th Department of the Main Military Medical Department of the Ministry of Defense. Dyumin Sr. was believed to be part of the closest circle of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Grachov, in the 1990s.
In 1994 he graduated from the Voronezh Higher Military Engineering School of Radio Electronics in 1994. After that, he worked for 20 years in the Federal Security Service, a special service separate from the KGB, which protects high-ranking officials of the Russian Federation. Since 1999, he has been an officer of Putin’s security. From 2008-2012, he was the aide-de-camp of Prime Minister Putin and headed his personal security. After Putin’s return to the post of President of the Russian Federation in 2012, he became the deputy head of the Presidential Security Service. Since 2014 he has been the Deputy Chief of the GRU of the General Staff of the Russian Federation, Commander of the Special Operations Forces. In 2015 – Chief of the Main Staff of the Ground Forces – First Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces. At the beginning of 2016, he worked for one and a half months as the Deputy Minister of Defense.
In February 2016, he was appointed acting governor of the Tula region. It is an established practice of bypassing the democratic procedures of governor elections in the Russian Federation. Half a year before the elections, the Kremlin appoints a person of its choice as acting president, and then during the elections, the status of the appointed politician is legitimized through the elections. In September 2016, Dyumin was elected governor of the Tula region, and in 2021 he was re-elected for the next term.
Putin regularly visited the Tula region, and Dyumin lived two cities away, spending a significant amount of time in Moscow, which allowed him to maintain all the necessary personal contacts with Russian elites.
Participation in the annexation of Crimea and the initial phase of the war against Ukraine
According to numerical data, in 2014, Dyumin was responsible for developing and implementing the operation to relocate Yanukovych from Ukraine in February 2014. He also personally managed the seizure and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Probably, it was for these operations that Dyumin received the title of Hero of the Russian Federation, but the awarding decree has not been published.
He has been under US sanctions since 2018, Canadian sanctions since 2019, Ukrainian sanctions since 2021, and British sanctions since 2023.
During 20 years of service in the security units of senior officials, he established close personal contacts with most representatives of the modern Russian establishment. What is especially important is that he has trustful relations with Putin’s most immediate entourage and has been seen in hockey-related projects with Rotenberg and Timchenko. Dyumin even has a dacha in Vaodai next to the presidential residence. Putin has a special attitude toward his security, like many other similar autocratic leaders. That is why the persona of someone responsible for this security occupies a specific place in the president’s psychology. Putin always trusted and still trusts Dyumin. In connection with these circumstances, it is Dyumin who may become the person to whom Putin agrees to transfer power, hoping for guarantees of personal safety and guarantees for his entourage.
Dyumin worked for a long time together with Viktor Zolotov, the current head of the Russian Guard. Until now, they have maintained a close personal and working relationship.
Dyumin’s relationship with Shoigu is not close, which was confirmed by Dyumin’s quick dismissal from the Deputy Minister of Defense post in 2016.
Role during the attempted mutiny of Prigozhin
According to many reports, Dyumin took part in negotiations with the “Wagnerians” regarding stopping the rebellion and stopping the march to Moscow. Dyumin’s press service denies this. In 2014, at the initial stages of the creation of the “Wagner” group, Dyumin headed the Special Operations Forces and worked with Utkin, a lieutenant colonel of the Russian special forces. During that period, Utkin was involved in operations on the territory of the Luhansk region and other regions of Ukraine. Moreover, Dyumin knows Prigozhin quite well personally, from when one of them provided security for Putin and the other – the food supply.
Political and personnel prospects
Following the consequences of the mutiny attempt, we can consider several options for Dyumin’s promotion in the system of Russian state administration.
1) Appointment as a curator of all private military companies. The demand for the services of unofficial and formally unrelated law enforcement agencies remains. The need for their existence is especially urgent to ensure operations abroad: the protection of jewels exported by corrupt people from Russia in some African countries, the protection of mining enterprises, participation in rebellions, or their suppression in third countries. However, the activities of private military formations must be coordinated with the Russian political and military leadership daily. Prigozhin has lost trust and will not be able to perform these functions. Dyumin has the necessary experience and connections and could become the curator of the entire sphere of shadow operations. However, in this case, his chances of occupying high positions in the official Russian government will be reduced.
2) Appointment to the post of Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation. The resignations of Shoigu or Gerasimov could be part of the obligations to stop the mutiny attempt. However, even without this, Putin’s dissatisfaction with the work of the Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff grew during the war. Putin considers them to be the ones to blame for the failure of the plans to seize Kyiv quickly. Contradictions between Putin and the military leadership grew, as well as contradictions between the administration of the special services, on the one hand, and the military group, on the other. Even if the quick resignations of Shoigu and Gerasimov are not announced, their real influence on the planning of operations and the conduct of hostilities will be reduced. Dyumin can be appointed immediately to Minister of Defense or, for example, First Deputy Minister, but with maximum powers. Dyumin has a military education, experience in management positions, and the colonel general rank. Immediately after the coup attempt, the Russian mass media actively covered Dyumin’s visits to military units stationed in the Tula region, which can be seen as a signal of readiness to take military leadership into their own hands. However, appointing a person not directly from the military system as the Minister of Defense will cause certain dissatisfaction among the generals. If set, Dyumin will be forced to bring his team to the ministry and the General Staff, probably from the Russian Guard, FSO, and FSB.
3) It is also worth considering the option of appointing Dyumin to the post of prime minister. Such an appointment will signal the start of the “successor” operation. According to the Russian constitution, the prime minister becomes acting president in the event of his resignation or death. In the event of an appointment, the transfer of power can occur at any time before the start of the presidential election campaign or as a result of holding elections without the participation of Putin as a candidate. If the design of the transfer will not be ready, but the decision to carry it out is made, then the election date can be postponed to a period after March 17, 2024.