From Nezavisimaya gazeta, March 22, 2021, p. 7. Complete text:
Last week, [Russian] President [Vladimir Putin] participated in the final session of the Prosecutor General’s Office collegium. In similar fashion, Vladimir Putin has inspected all of the country’s key law-enforcement, or rather law-enforcement and security agencies since late February. Although most generals participated in the events via video conference, the president was personally present in conference rooms.
Before [meeting with] the prosecutors, Putin assigned tasks for leaders of the Internal Affairs Ministry and Federal Security Service (FSB) [see Vol. 73, No. 9-10, p. 9]. For some reason, just as in previous years, the president did not get to attend the [Russian] Investigative Committee (IC) collegium that took place on March 5. However, that hardly means that he has a negative attitude toward IC head Aleksandr Bastrykin. Rather, it symbolizes Putin’s complete confidence in [Bastrykin].
As for the president’s instructions to law-enforcement and security agencies, they corresponded with [the agencies’] respective purviews. However, all of them were tasked with ensuring the State Duma electionswere carried out flawlessly. Yet it became clear after the Prosecutor General’s Office collegium meeting that this government agency has become a kind of tool for Putin’s interaction with the country and society. The “sovereign’s eye” [a name for the Prosecutor General’s Office dating to tsarist times – Trans.] was assigned a wide range of tasks: overseeing the economy, social issues and the health care system; fighting corruption and embezzlement of public funds; and overseeing [administrative] policy [in the areas of] family, labor and even legislation. For example, prosecutors will keep an eye on how the regions are bringing their laws in line with the new Constitution.
What’s more, the president dealt somewhat informally with Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, kindly explaining to him that a provision about social guarantees for employees of prosecutor’s offices should have been included in the 2021 plan. That looked like mentorship for a young administrator, but it must be remembered that since the Constitution was amended [see Vol. 72, No. 27‑28, pp. 3‑7], the prosecution system has actually become a sort of personal security arm for the head of state.
The reason for the [president’s] order for law-enforcement and security agencies to oversee the upcoming State Duma elections became clear last week after the Kremlin found a way to respond to US President Joe Biden’s assent to the question of whether Putin is a “killer.” The Russian president seemed to hint that there were concerns about Biden’s health – i.e., he agreed with the opinion of Russian state propaganda. It may be recalled that Putin invited his US counterpart to hold a live [online] conversation, and [Russian] presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov commented that Moscow would consider the lack of an immediate response from Washington as a refusal to accept the challenge to that political duel.
Yet it is already clear that whether a public debate between Putin and Biden happens or not, the Kremlin once again has a frenemy to help it ensure uncompetitive elections in a “besieged fortress” situation. In other words, now there is no need to fabricate any scheme by Western intelligence agencies trying to destabilize Russia through their agents. Now America has openly stated that Russia and its authorities will have to pay a price for their attempts to meddle in US elections. Of course, this does not mean that [the Kremlin] will forget about foreign agents – on the contrary, repressions against them will only intensify. However, state-controlled TV will be able to tone down the level of media noise around [opposition leader] Aleksei Navalny and his “smart voting” [a tactic of supporting the contender most likely to defeat the incumbent or regime-backed candidate – Trans.] to avoid boosting the oppositionist’s name recognition. From all indications, last week, the Kremlin went to work on the gift from Biden for the State Duma election campaign. For example, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin commented that smart voting is a “worthless project [that] is not aimed at addressing citizens’ problems and concerns.” According to him, smart voting is driven by a desire to come to power. “It is important to bear in mind that the initiators of this project are living abroad. In my opinion, they are being backed by Western states and intelligence agencies. [Smart voting] is being used to interfere in our country’s domestic affairs. Politicians are getting involved in this project for just one reason: It is in opposition to the current regime,” Volodin said.