The new old face of the Federal Protection Service
On May 26, 2016, retirement of Evgeny Murov, the Head of the Federal Protection Service of the Russian Federation (FSO) for more than 16 years, was announced. He was called "the last from the first" Putin’s appointees in enforcement structures who managed to keep his post for so long. Still there are many dark spots in the change of leadership in FSO – from reasons behind the retirement of "dinosaur" Murov to the personality of the new head of the agency who is almost unknown to public.
Murov has retired at his own request; he reached the maximal age for the service back in November 2015. Before the retirement, he had headed the agency for 16 years; in total he served in the state security for 45 years.
It’s worthwhile to recall his main career highlights. He began his service in enforcement structures in 1974, in the First Chief Directorate (foreign intelligence service) of the USSR Committee for State Security (KGB). In the 1990s Murov transferred to the Administration of the Federal Security Service (FSB) for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region where he rose through the ranks to Deputy Head of Administration and met the current President Vladimir Putin. From there Murov transferred to the FSB Central Apparatus where he was appointed Deputy Head of the Department for Economic Security; finally, in May 2000 Putin appointed him the Head of the Federal Protection Service (FSO).
What is FSO?
Murov’s name was mentioned in a number of high-profile media publications – from the story of selling the "Official Kremlin supplier" trademark to information that he prevented a terrorist attack at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. However, to fully understand his career as the Head of FSO, it’s necessary to clarify the status of this agency in the general framework of Russian protection services.
The Federal Protection Service is a successor to the famous Ninth Directorate of KGB of the USSR Council of Ministers, responsible for safety of Communist and Soviet Leaders in the period of 1954–1990. In 1991 it was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Presidential Apparatus and renamed into General Administration for Protection. The agency got its current name in 1996.
Currently FSO is responsible for protection of country leaders and security of governmental communication channels. It includes Protection Provisions Service, Presidential Security Service and Special Communication and Information Service (Spetzsvyaz). The third service was added in 2003 – after a reform that eliminated the Federal Agency for Governmental Communication and Information (FAPSI).
In addition, FSO has a whole range of engineering-technical and support units, including Kremlin Commandant's Office and the Special Garage to ensure safe travels of the President, Prime Minister, heads of the State Duma and Federation Council, as well as visiting foreign leaders.
What is Murov known for?
Itogi magazine reports that shortly after his appointment at FSO, Murov prevented a terrorist attack plotted by Islamic extremists during the summit of the ‘Big Eight’ leaders in 2001 in Genoa. He reported on the threat of explosion, which forced the summit participants to relocate from Genoa Ducal Palaceto to the EuropeanVision sea cruise ship.
Media noted that this was a personal achievement by Murov; after it he got a ‘carte blanche’ for many tough decisions not possible for other enforcement officials. He has built FSO according to has own vision and, perhaps, this was the reason why the agency became a true "source of manpower" over time (which is also believed to be Murov’s personal credit).
Over recent years, the following FSO officers became superior officials: Alexander Kolpakov, Head of the Administrative Directorate of the President of the Russian Federation; Dmitry Mironov, Head of the General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (later removed from this position); Alexey Dyumin, acting Governor of the Tula Region; and Viktor Zolotov, former commander of interior forces and currently the Director of the Federal National Guard Service.
In 2005 Kommersant and some other media sources told another, even more interesting, story about Evgeny Murov. It was reported that FSO became the owner of the "Official Kremlin supplier" trademark and began renting it out to businessmen through some Kremlin Suppliers Guild at the cost of 1.5–2.25 million rubles.
Journalists said that the first company to gain rights on this trademark was Russian Wine and Vodka Company producing Flagman vodka, and that later most licenses have been issued to alcohol and tobacco producers and traders.
FSO gained powers that all (or almost all) other governmental agencies never had. For example, in 2009 then-President Dmitry Medvedev obligated all governmental officials and their family members to publish income and assets information on the annual basis. However, FSO and FSB refused to do so, and information on Murov’s income and assets was officially published only in summer 2010.
Despite the publication of income, the "special" status of the Head of FSO remained undoubted until now. Suffice to say that in October 2010 he had to retire upon the attainment of the age of 65 – but Medvedev extended his term of office until 2012. It was announced that in the age of 65 Murov could retire from service and then be re-appointed as a civil official in the ministerial rank.
So, why he has left?
Whatever friends and enemies say of Murov, he is a true "mammoth"; Lenta.ru called him "the last from the first". He managed to keep his position in the protection agency for 16 years – during this period, heads of other agencies have changed more than once. And now he retires. Why?
There are various explanations, but the most common is age. Murov is 70. As said above, he received guarantees of a senior civil post a few years ago; it’s also known that such high-rank officials never leave "entirely" – they become councils and deputies.
But there is another version of reasons behind the retirement of the Head of FSO. Murov’s name was mentioned in a number of journalistic investigations. In particular, he was named in publications related to the arrest of billionaire Dmitry Mikhalchenko. Although Mikhalchenko was charged with smuggling, which has nothing to do with Murov, he still has links with the businessman: Mikhalchenko owns Forum company which includes BaltStroy company. His business partner is Nikolay Negodov who, RBC Information Systems reports, procured for BaltStroy profitable construction contracts with a FSO’s commercial company using personal relations with Murov – his former colleague in the St. Petersburg FSB Administration. Therefore, the former partners of the Head of FSO could be involved into the high-profile "renovators case".
In addition, Sobesednik newspaper linked Murov’s retirement with its article about his family assets; the article stated that his wife Lyudmila owns 4 apartments with the total cost over 1 billion rubles.
Successors – inheritors
In June 2014 media announced that Murov might retire shortly after his 69th birthday. At that time his deputy Alexey Mironov, a young general, was named his successor.
Little was known about Mironov: he was Murov’s protege, Murov personally brought him to FSO, he is less than 50 years old, and in 2011 he was appointed the Head of Spetzsvyaz. However, in the next 2 years the staffing decision, apparently, has changed, and Murov’s successor became Dmitry Kochnev, former Head of the Presidential Security Service.
By all accounts, Dmitry Kochnev is even more classified person than Murov’s ex-successor Mironov. After his appointment, journalists managed to find some scarce details of his biography.
Another interesting aspect: after the appointment of Kochnev, information on his income and family assets went public. Media noted that his spouse Marina Medvedeva earned 58.1 million rubles in the year of 2015 – more than any other senior Russian security service officers or their relatives. Colonel Kochnev reported personal income of 3.26 million rubles. The income of his spouse was later linked with the fact that she, as per RBC Information Systems, is a board member of Sibur, the largest Russian petrochemical company.
Dmitry Viktorovich Kochnev was born in 1964 in Moscow. Higher education degree. Compulsory military service in 1982–1984. In 1984–2002 served in enforcement agencies of the USSR and Russian Federation. Since 2002 served in state protection structures of the Russian Federation. Since 2015 – Deputy Head of FSO, Head of the Presidential Security Service of FSO. Colonel (2006), married. Has governmental and ministerial awards.
It was also reported that the new Head of FSO has complicated relations with heads of other enforcement agencies. In particular, Alexander Korzhakov, former head of security for Boris Yeltsin, in his comment to Radio Business FM, spoke of tensions between Kochnev and Zolotov. Korzhakov explained those by the attitude of both officials towards their superiors.
"When I worked in this sphere, I had met this constantly: competition for proximity to the boss’s body – nothing changed here, everything is still same," – he noted.
But there is an opposite opinion as well. Political expert Alexey Makarkin in an interview to Polit.ru called the appointment of Kochnev a success of Zolotov’s staffing policy.
"Retirement of Evgeny Murov became another step in the rise of general Zolotov, Director of the Federal National Guard Service. For a long time, Zolotov was traditionally considered a departmental ally of Murov in the famous "wars between enforcement agencies"; experts in the governmental balance of power named Murov and Zolotov, as the saying goes, comma separated. They were perceived as a kind of group," – he explained.
Then, Makarkin believes, Murov and Zolotov have parted their ways: they began representing interests of different "clans", and the newly-appointed Director of the National Guard has won this battle with "active staffing expansion".
"Dmitry Kochnev succeeded Murov; he is not an ordinary person from FSO, but from the Presidential Security Service; he was the head of this service lately, and in the past he worked in it for a while under the command of general Zolotov. Therefore, I believe this is an obvious success of Zolotov’s staffing policy; this is his second success this year: the first one, as a matter of fact, was creation of the National Guard with a powerful mandate," – the political expert noted.
The experts say it’s too early to discuss implications of this appointment, but generally they incline to the opinion that the promotion of Dmitry Kochnev is consistent with the long-term policy of the Russian authorities – when security guards for the country leaders begin performing ‘political control’ functions, irrelevant to their official duties, and become public personalities. Further strengthening of the "Zolotov’s group" is likely. His personal status in the enforcement framework has been already broadly discussed after his appointment the head of the "Presidential personal guard". How will he use the new powers (and whether Dmitry Kochnev would be involved into this) – that remains to be seen.