Technocrat, ‘decent’ hockey player, pianist: Russia’s next PM Mikhail Mishustin

Mikhail Mishustin

A file photo of Mikhail Mishustin. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik via AP)

On Wednesday, Mikhail Mishustin, who is best known in Russia for improving tax collection processes and doubling tax revenues, was picked by President Vladimir Putin as the nation's next prime minister. On Thursday, the lower house of Russia's parliament is expected to decide on approving Mishustin, despite analysts saying he was at best a 'technocratic placeholder'.

Who is Mishustin 

Mishustin, who is 53-years-old, has been the head of the Federal Tax Service since 2010 and has worked in government roles related to tax collection since the early days of his career, says a Reuters profile of him.

He has won praise for improving tax collection processes and more than doubling tax revenues in the past decade, with 20.4 trillion roubles ($331.92 billion) collected in the first 11 months of last year. The majority of those revenues still come from taxes on the vast energy sector but an increasing share now comes from other forms of taxation after an efficiency drive.

A glowing profile of him on state-run said that the Moscow-born Mishustin worked in the computer and IT sector throughout the 90s and joined the tax service near the end of the decade, when he began his career as a civil servant. Mishustin holds a doctorate in economics and oversaw the opening of the first special economic zones in Russia and in the early 2000s was put in charge of the Federal Real Estate Cadaster Agency.

Vladimir Putin with Mikhail Mishustin

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) with Mikhail Mishustin (right) in Sochi, Russia on November 2018. (Sputnik/Alexey Nikolskiy/Kremlin via Reuters)

In 2008, he left the civil service for an investment company but returned in a couple of years to head the nation's tax service. Mishustin told Vedomosti newspaper in 2018 he did not seek a return to the private sector.

"But if destiny chooses a different path for me, I would work in innovations, with new technologies, in the same field as I have always worked: transformation, related to the digital economy," he said.

Like Putin, Mishustin enjoys ice hockey and is on the boards of CSKA Moscow ice hockey club and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. A former ice hockey player-turned-lawmaker said that he is a "decent" hockey player. The PM candidate is said to compose music and plays the piano.

What analysts said

"Mishustin does not have any political experience or popularity with the electorate, and is not part of Putin's inner circle," Tatiana Stanovaya, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on social media.

She said Mishustin would be unlikely to run in the presidential election due when Putin's fourth term ends in 2024, adding: "(It) seems highly likely that Mishustin is just a technocratic placeholder."

"(Mishustin) looks a lot like the technocratic premiers... of the early 2000s," Stanovaya said.

Analyst Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Putin adviser, told the Interfax news agency that Mishustin is "a splendid bureaucrat, in the best sense of the word.''

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