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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Long-playing: How does Dmitry Peskov manage to work as a presidential press secretary for so many years?

Dmitry Peskov has been a kind of alter ego of Vladimir Putin for many years, it is from the mouth of Peskov that the world learns Putin’s opinion on a very wide range of issues – from the attitude to international politics to family relations. Therefore, interest in the personality of the press secretary is inevitable. A lot of questions arise about him and about him. For example, how consistent are Peskov’s statements with Putin’s opinion? How does he manage to be his press secretary for so many years? Why did Putin choose Peskov for this role, who was neither a relative nor a childhood friend, nor a KGB officer, nor an employee of the St. Petersburg mayor’s office under Sobchak – that is, does not belong to any of the environments from which Putin formed his inner circle? We will try to find answers to these questions in Peskov’s biography, his career and the few interviews he gave.

Press Secretaries of the Presidents of the Russian Federation

In the Russian Federation, in all the years of its existence – from the collapse of the USSR to the present day – there have been only three presidents: Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, and again Vladimir Putin. If we look at who and for how long held the post of press secretary of the President of Russia, we will see that Dmitry Peskov sat in this post all.

The first press secretary of Russian President Boris Yeltsin was Pavel Voshchanov (only six months, from July 1991 to February 1992). Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he worked as a leading researcher at the Institute of Economics and an economic columnist for the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. In 1990, he was appointed an expert on information issues under the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. After Boris Yeltsin was elected the first president of the Russian Federation, Voshchanov was invited to work in the president’s team and was soon appointed to the post of press secretary.

At the same time, Voshchanov headed the Russian News Agency. In February 1992, after returning from Paris, Voshchanov learned that by presidential decree he had been removed from the post of head of the Russian Information Agency, and in his place was appointed a man who had previously worked for 15 years as director of a glass container plant. Resentful and disillusioned, Voshchanov resigned and flew to Paris. “For a year and a half, I could not return to Russia, because there was a kind of bargaining – will I publish any memories? Then I have no place in Russia. If I don’t, I can come back. <…> I said I wouldn’t publish anything. And they gave the go-ahead: then you can go back,” Voshchanov recalled. When Voshchanov returned, he worked as a political columnist for Komsomolskaya Pravda and Novaya Daily Gazeta, later renamed Novaya Gazeta.

Voshchanov was replaced by Vyacheslav Kostikov, who worked as the president’s press secretary from 1992 to 1995. Kostikov graduated from moscow state university journalism, was fluent in English and French, worked in the information department of the UNESCO secretariat in Paris, was the editor and political observer of the APS. He resigned from the post of press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation after the scandal caused by the report that he was writing a documentary book about working with President Yeltsin. For about a year he represented the interests of Russia in the Vatican and at the Order of Malta, then, until 2002, he was deputy general director of the Media-Most holding for public relations, and now he works as the director of the strategic planning center “Arguments and Facts”.

The next press secretary of Boris Yeltsin was another graduate of the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University, Sergei Medvedev, the only reporter who in August 1991 was able to tell on the air about what was happening in the Russian capital. After that report, he was fired, but soon returned to work at Ostankino. At that time, he interviewed many politicians, including Yeltsin, and from March 15, 1995 to August 13, 1996, he worked as a press secretary and assistant to the President of the Russian Federation. After his retirement, he returned to television, where he eventually became the general director of the Ostankino television company (until December 2017). Since 2016, he has been conducting a documentary series “Mysteries of the Century” on the Zvezda TV channel.

President Yeltsin’s most famous press secretary is Sergei Yastrzhembsky, a position he held from August 1996 to September 1998. The promising diplomat Yastrzhembsky became Yeltsin’s press secretary on the recommendation of Anatoly Chubais. Yastrzhembsky agreed to this work on the condition that he and Yeltsin would work without intermediaries and only the president would be able to dictate to the press secretary what he should publicly voice. Yastrzhembsky was fired because of his opinion on the possible candidacy of the future prime minister, which Yeltsin’s son-in-law Valentin Yumashev regarded as lobbying the interests of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. After that, Yastrzhembsky headed the Moscow government for two years, and in January 2000 he joined the team of the new president Vladimir Putin and became his assistant. In 2008, Dmitry Medvedev replaced Putin, but Yastrzhembsky refused the offer to work in his team, resigned and took up creativity.

The fifth and last press secretary of Russian President Boris Yeltsin was international journalist Dmitry Yakushkin. After Yeltsin’s resignation, he stayed with him and continued to work as the press secretary of the ex-president. In January 2000, Yakushkin was also appointed Assistant to the Head of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. Since 2006, he worked as a director of Highland Gold Mining. In November 2018, he said that he was engaged only in teaching work and was a professor at the Higher School of Economics.

If the first president of Russia for 9 years changed five press secretaries, then his successor prefers not to throw away press secretaries. In all the years that Vladimir Putin has been in power, and this is more than 22 years, he has had only two press secretaries. For the first two terms of his presidency (2000–2008), his press secretary was Alexei Gromov.

According to the official version, Gromov graduated from the Moscow State University Faculty of History and immediately entered the service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, then the Russian Federation. Since the Moscow State University did not train diplomatic workers, there is an assumption that Gromov was an employee of the KGB (FSB) under the guise of diplomatic status. In 1996, under the patronage of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, he became a press secretary, and 2 years later – the head of the press service of the presidential administration of the Russian Federation.

Gromov met Putin in the mid-1980s while working in Czechoslovakia. When Putin became acting president in the wake of President Yeltsin’s early resignation, he appointed Gromov as his press secretary. In March 2000, Vladimir Putin was elected president, and Alexei Gromov took the post of press secretary to the President of Russia. On March 26, 2004, after Putin’s reelection for a second term, Gromov was reconfirmed in his position.

From 2008 to 2012, when Dmitry Medvedev was president of Russia, Alexei Gromov worked as deputy head of the presidential administration. In 2012, Putin, who returned to the Kremlin, appointed him first deputy head of the presidential administration, responsible for the media sphere. Gromov has been described as the head of Russian state propaganda, who has controlled Russian media and especially television for more than 22 years.

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