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Influential Russian deputy prime minister Surkov quits

Influential Russian deputy prime minister Vladislav Surkov, known as a strategist who designed Russia’s tightly-controlled politics, has quit, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Surkov had left his post voluntarily.

Surkov had served as deputy prime minister after being dismissed from the post of first deputy Kremlin chief of staff in a shakeup in December 2011.

Surkov, 48, has been considered the ideologue of Putin’s domestic political strategy who oversaw political parties in parliament, electoral campaigns and the tightly controlled media.

He worked in the Kremlin administration from 1999 before his unexpected transition to the government seen at the time as the Kremlin’s reaction to the mass anti-Putin protests in 2011.

The departure of Surkov, who had for the past year and a half been in charge of modernising Russian economy, comes as Russian investigators are probing the Skolkovo hi-tech fund where Surkov sits on the supervisory board.

Last month, the hugely powerful Investigative Committee, Russia’s equivalent of the FBI in the United States, accused one of the fund’s senior executives of giving $750,000 to an opposition lawmaker.

Surkov has publicly defended the fund, saying in a recent speech at the London School of Economics that investigators should not come to any premature conclusions.

Putin’s spokesman said Surkov’s departure should not be seen in connection with the investigation at the Skolkovo fund.

Instead, he suggested that the deputy prime minister quit because of the government’s poor implementation of Putin’s election promises.

“Indeed, Surkov has quit voluntarily, it is related to the priority topic and the high-priority task of implementing presidential decrees,” Dmitry Peskov told the Kommersant FM radio.