New Kaliningrad governor appointment ‘sign of silovikis’ grip on Kremlin’

The Port of Kaliningrad
RIA/Scanpix

Yevgeny Zinichev, a general of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB in which Putin himself served, last week replaced Nikolay Tsukanov who unexpectedly stepped down as governor of the Kaliningrad region.

Experts say that the move points to the influence of the so-called siloviki, figures with a special service background, in Russia‘s politics.

Mikhail Vinogradov, a Russian political analyst, says that Putin’s wish to have reliable people in the administration shows the region’s importance for the Kremlin and may signal an attempt by Moscow to expand the influence of security bodies in the outer regions of Russia.

“It is no secret that the Kaliningrad region was on the periphery of the central government’s attention both in the 1990s and in the 2000s,” the president of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation, a think-tank, told BNS.

The Kaliningrad region, which has 255 kilometres of common border with Lithuania and a population of over 400,000, is significant to Russia in terms of military security, with thousands of high readiness troops deployed in the exclave.

The Lithuanian military say that the anti-aircraft, coastal defence and surface-to-surface missile capabilities stationed in the region could hinder the arrival of NATO reinforcements to the Baltic countries in the event of a military conflict.

Some Russian officials say, in turn, that they are concerned about Kaliningrad being isolated from mainland Russia.

According to Lithuanian bodies, the Kaliningrad branch of FSB, which had been headed by Zinichev, the region’s current acting governor, since 2015, paid much attention to intelligence operations in Lithuania.

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