Kremlin strategist 'sidelined' after Putin clash: reports

28th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The reassignment of the Kremlin's top political strategist to a job as deputy prime minister was a demotion sparked by a dispute with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, reports said on Wednesday.

The Kremlin Tuesday announced that Vladislav Surkov, the man credited with designing Russia's tightly-controlled political system, was leaving his job as deputy Kremlin chief of staff and would take charge of economic modernisation.

Russian newspapers said that the move was sparked by differences with Putin over future political tactics that broke out earlier this year and intensified after Russia was rocked by mass protests following parliamentary elections.

"Surkov has his vision of the development of events after the mass meetings and his opinion differs from that of Putin's circle," the Vedomosti daily quoted a source in the Kremlin administration as saying.

It said that Putin's circle was also unhappy that Surkov -- whose reputation for political manipulation had taken on an almost mystical allure in recent years -- had failed to prevent the protests breaking out.

"It seems that Surkov had got tired of his role -- whether it was as Faust or the Devil," wrote the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

The pro-government Izvestia daily that Surkov's differences with Putin dated back to the announcement in May of the creation of an All-Russian Popular Front (ONF) to rally support for Putin, in which Surkov was not involved.

"This kind of politician (Surkov) that used to exist has now been exhausted... The work of the new government is going to be a little different," it quoted a source close to the government as saying.

Izvestia described Surkov and his successor as Kremlin first deputy chief of staff, former top ruling party official Vyacheslav Volodin, as "long time rivals" and noted Volodin had been one of the instigators of the ONF.

Russian media said it appeared that Volodin would take on Surkov's responsibilities for political strategy but cautioned there was no reason to assume he would be any softer than his predecessor.

"We could see the fact that Surkov was sidelined as a sign of change. But we need to be careful and say it is a sign of the possibility of change," said the Novaya Gazeta.

"Because it is now Vyacheslav Volodin -- another fan of democracy -- who will be in charge of the political chess game," it added sarcastically.

© 2011 AFP

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