Ahead of the September elections, Vladimir Putin met last week with three regional governors up for reelection: Gleb Nikitin from Nizhny Novgorod
(in person) and Alexander Gusev from Voronezh
and Viktor Tomenko from Altai
(remotely). Only Nikitin asked directly for Putin’s support in his reelection bid. For the others, the very fact of the meeting was enough.Meetings with governors: General canon
Putin’s meetings with the governors, information about which is published on the Kremlin website, approximately follow the same model: they usually take about half an hour, the president has in front of him a slide deck provided by the governor in advance on the progress of the region, some informational materials, as well as some briefs prepared by the Presidential Administration and requests sent in advance by governors with preliminary comments from presidential envoys.
At the very beginning, Putin sometimes asks the governor to talk about some specific thing that interests him. For example, at the meeting with Nikitin, he inquired about how big enterprises are doing. More often, the governor is invited to talk about what is most important for his region currently.
According to the custom that has developed over the past year, the governors start by laying out how the region is contributing to the special military operation (SVO) and helping to rebuild the annexed Ukrainian territories.
Nikitin said that Nizhny Novgorod Region spent RUB 2.2 billion on the SVO in 2022, supplying servicemen and mobilized soldiers with everything necessary as they went through training and off to the combat zone, as well as making regular payments to military families and providing material assistance to the wounded and the families of those killed. When speaking with Putin, Nikitin called it “sacred expenditures.” Nizhny Novgorod Region spent the same amount to support Bolshoy Khartsyzsk, an agglomeration it sponsors in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
In the poorer Altai Territory, more than RUB 1.5 billion was spent on the SVO, according to Tomenko, which is about 1% of all expenses of the region’s consolidated budget. However, Tomenko does not complain, saying to Putin: “as much as needed, we will find as much and send as much.” At the same time, he asked for help building a school in Barnaul, for which there is no money in the regional budget.
For comparison, the better-off Rostov Region spent RUB 3.5 billion from its budget to support the SVO, as its governor reported
at a meeting with Putin on April 26.
The main part of governors’ reports is usually devoted to the success of their regions in areas where the region either ranks highly or has been able to improve its position recently. Examples include the grain harvest, increased construction volumes and above-average economic growth.
Tomenko told Putin last week that his region is the leader in buckwheat production.
Meanwhile, the governor of Ingushetia insisted that his region had the highest life expectancy
in the country. True, this was at a meeting not with the president, but with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The format of meetings between the prime minister and governors is similar to presidential ones, though without mention of the SVO and with more emphasis on economic issues. Meetings with the prime minister also take place regularly. For instance, last week Mishustin met in person with all seven heads of regions in the North Caucasus Federal District in Kavminvody as part of a session
with members of the Government Commission on the Socio-Economic Development of the North Caucasus Federal District.
Speaking about the specific achievements of their regions, governors try to reference Putin’s instructions and support from him, or, more rarely, from the government.