Vladimir Putin replaces chief of staff in Kremlin power reshuffle
Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired Sergei Ivanov, his chief of staff and once one of his closest allies, in the most high-profile power reshuffle at the Kremlin in years.
The Kremlin press office issued the order to "relieve Sergei Ivanov of his duties". The stern statement was followed by footage of a meeting of Mr Putin, Mr Ivanov and the new chief of staff, Anton Vayno.
Despite the clear appearance that Mr Ivanov had been forced out, the president insisted he was making the move at his one-time ally's request because he had been too long in the job.
"I'm happy with how you handle tasks in your line of work," Mr Putin said. "I remember well our agreement that you had asked me not to keep you as chief of the presidential administration for more than four years and that is why I understand your desire to choose another line of work."
Former KGB officer Mr Ivanov, a former defence minister and deputy prime minister, had been seen as one of Mr Putin's closest allies. He was considered a likely successor to Mr Putin before the leader chose Dmitry Medvedev to run for president in 2008 when he was unable to stand himself due to term limitations.
In a symbolic gesture, Mr Putin appointed Mr Ivanov a special envoy for transportation and environment, seen as a downgrade for the man who had been considered one of the most influential in Russia.
In a subtle hint to the fact that his political career is over, the 63-year-old thanked Mr Putin in televised remarks for his "high assessment of my work during the past 17 years".
Mr Ivanov kept his seat on the Security Council, Russia's main security body, which discusses war and peace and includes the president, chairmen of parliament and the chiefs of the security services.
Mr Vayno, 44, has worked in Mr Putin's protocol department and was recently Mr Ivanov's deputy.
Mr Ivanov is the latest casualty in what now seems to be Mr Putin's campaign to get rid of his closest allies who have worked with him for decades and moved in the 1990s from St Petersburg to Moscow.
In the past year, chief of the Russian railways Vladimir Yakunin, anti-narcotics tsar Viktor Ivanov and Security Service chief Yevgeny Murov have lost their jobs. All of them are men in their 60s who studied or made their career in St Petersburg alongside Mr Putin.
Among the most recent appointments made by 63-year-old Mr Putin are former members of his security detail.
As somebody who remembers the 1970s when the Soviet Union was ruled by Leonid Brezhnev, a party boss in his 70s who at the end of his rule struck Russians as senile and was surrounded by men in their 70s and 80s, Mr Putin wants to avoid projecting the image of an ageing leader, said Moscow-based analyst Alexei Makarkin.
"He wants to revive his team with the people he can fully trust and who are always near him, and that's why the sources for new hires are his security detail and the presidential office," Mr Makarkin said. "They are always near. They are always there for him."