Tula Region boarders the Moscow region, as it can be see on the map
Not long ago Dudka enjoyed being a governor of the Tula Region, which borders reach Moscow Region. Dudka was a prominent member of ruling United Russia party. He was a welcome guest at the office of Russian president in Moscow. However, having ruled the region for too long, he lost the knack and fell easy pray to former intelligence officer and businessman Vladimir Gruzdev, who plotted against Dudka. Under Dudka’s nose, Gruzdev arranged for a number of probes into top security officials of the region that revealed high level of corruption and facts of bribery. After that he made Dudka a scapegoat and fully discredited figure in the eyes of the Kremlin and United Russia. In the end, Gruzdev toppled his boss and took over his office.
For a long time Vyacheslav Dudka worked as a senior manager in the defense industry. This made him a well-networked man of means.
Dudka was in power since 2005 when he became governor of the Tula Region. The only sources of income in the region were Russian-style Tula honey cakes, samovars, and… land. The land on the boarder with the Moscow Region had grown in price dramatically. Governor Dudka made land his business, giving away land plots for bribes. He took a winning political stand, or at least he thought so. Dudka’s future was secured by his loyalty to Putin, Medvedev and United Russia.
In 2010 his term expired, but Dudka had no doubts the president would reappoint him. Yet there was another candidate for the office – Vladimir Gruzdev, member of the State Duma and businessman. Gruzdev assumed he had outgrown the parliament. Dudka did not take his rival seriously. Indeed, in 2010 Dmiry Medvedev reappointed him as the governor of the Tula Region.
What happened next was a wake-up call for him. But Dudka preferred to close eyes at it. He assumed if he was received by Putin and Medvedev and they spoke to him, it was nothing to worry about. Seriously, he secured good results for United Russia at the Duma vote and was a member of the party.
And what happened? Governor Dudka was offered to buy a popular internet portal called Tulskiye Pryaniki. The site, which is a regional counterpart of All-Russia Compromat.ru, publishes independent investigations and compromising materials. The price was rather high for Tula - a million of dollars, however Vyacheslav Dudka could afford it (a bribe for a large land plot). But Dudka thought he could do without the site. As a governor he had immunity against any compromising materials. Later on, local branch of the FSB intercepted top officials of the region. Dudka knew about it, but he did not pay attention: “Let them intercept until they are fed up. I won’t be targeted anyway”. Speaking about bribes, Dudka referred to money as “sheepskin goat” or “scientific data”.
Vyacheslav Dudka, former governor of the Tula region
In November 2010 Viktor Volkov, head of the department for land property of the Tula Region, accepted money worth $1.3 million as a bride from a large supermarket chain called GRINN. Volkov was a Dudka’s confidant and main bribe-taker in the administration of the region. The chain wanted to get a land plot of 2.5 hectares for building an outlet. Their talks were bugged by the FSB that waited another 3 months for the box with money to be delivered to the addressee. Dudka was aware of the planned operation to detain Volkov and ordered him to hide the box somewhere in the woods. On 6 January 2011 Volkov was arrested. The investigators convinced Volkov to testify against Dudka. Who crossed him up? Dudka thought. He did not sort it out properly. Someone whispered in his ear, that the chief of local FSB wanted to take his place. For Dudka he became number one enemy. How desperately mistaken he was!
In order to stop the top brass officer, Vyacheslav Dudka thrust himself into the Kremlin, asking Putin or Medvedev to meet him. He frequented at the office of United Russia party at Moskow's Staraya Square. The party leadres reassured him. “Everything is all right, you do not need to worry”, they said. In February the agents of the KGB detained him right on board of the airplane as he was going to the UAE. He was brought to Russia’s Investigative Committee and interrogated.
However, Dudka did not change tactics and continued visiting top officials in Moscow. Everyone reassured him. Everyone spoke about unofficial support. But no one, including leaders of United Russia, publicly spoke in support of governor Dudka. Boris Gryzlov laughed the matter off: he said he had been the interior minister and could question Dudka himself, even under torture. Sergey Naryshkin, head of the Staff of the president, told Dudka about the position of the Kremlin on him. Naryshkin frankly told Dudka that Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of Russia's Investigative Committee, had come to the Kremlin, asking permission to arrest Dudka. But, the permission had not been given… yet. The governor, Naryshkin said, had to do his best in order to hush up the scandal, because the situation discredited the ruling party.
The crucial moment came for Tulskiye Pryaniki. The publication carried on disclosing the details of the major corruption case of Volkov. The site posted Volkov's comments on the case and kept the public informed about the details of trial. Russia's major newspapers predicted that Dudka would be sacked within a few days. Dudka found comfort in the hope for the Kremlin that remained silent, and therefore, Dudka thought, there was no danger for him. Dudka spoke to the deputy head of the staff of the president Vyacheslav Surkov. This person is a top advisor to the president. Surkov is responsible for cadres. Surkov did not tell Dudka that the decision had been made. Vyacheslav Dudka considered this silence as a positive signal. Dudka relaxed and put off struggle till the Duma vote in December. He thought he would show how the Tula Region votes “in a gut of passion” for United Russia…
At the end of July Dudka was watching television when he saw Dmitry Medvedev’s saying he dismissed Dudka at his own, Dudka’s, request!
Soon president Dmitry Medvedev appointed Vladimir Gruzdev as the head of the region. It finally dawned on Dudka who was his real enemy! He realized in a moment that Gruzdev had carried out magnificent operation to clear the office of the governor for himself.
After Dudka refused to buy Tulskiye Pryaniki, Vladimir Gruzdev bought it and began to use the site as a heavy weapon against his rival. Gruzdev's father is a former general of the FSB. His connections enabled his son to set the head of regional FSB against Dudka. The top brass officer took part in the operation to topple Dudka, he did not want to take the governor's place.
Vladimir Gruzdev, incumbent governor of the Tula region
When Volkov was caught by the FSB, Gruzdev led undercover struggle to remove Viacheslav Dudka. Gruzdev had no problems finding support of United Russia. He is a member of the party and its sponsor. Finding the support of the Kremlin was another case: Medvedev reappointed Dudka not long ago - only in March 2010. Putin met him regularly. But Gruzdev managed to drag his rival through the mud and in the end found the support of Surkov. Surkov disliked Vyacheslav Dudka, so he gathered all the stuff about Dudka and presented it to the ruling “tandem” in the way that secured Dudka's dismissed.
While Dudka's was fighting his fictional enemy in the FSB, his enemy laid a trap for him. Deceived by the top Kremlin officials and having lost the support of Medvedev and Putin, he fell into the trap.
Thomas Petrov, Rumafia.com