MOSCOW – In a surprise move Vladimir Putin has dismissed his top aide on Friday. Sergei Ivanov, a former intelligence official who has been one of the Russian president’s right-hand men for most of his rule was abruptly removed from his post.
Ivanov, 63, was considered as one of the most influential men in Russia. He has been Putin’s chief of staff since December 2011. Now Putin gets a new right-hand a former diplomat Anton Vaino, who has held senior positions in the Russian government since 2008.
The Kremlin issued a statement which says, Ivanov had resigned voluntarily and would now serve as a special envoy on environmental and transport issues, a seemingly extraordinary step down.
Putin said in a televised meeting that he accepted Ivanov’s resignation, and also thanked him and said he was honoring an agreement with Ivanov that he would not ask him to serve as chief of staff for more than four years, saying, “I understand your wish to move to another area of work.”
Putin said. “Respected Sergei Borisovich, we have worked many years together. We’ve worked successfully. I’m satisfied with how you have fulfilled your tasks in your area of duties.”
Mr Ivanov replied: “Thank you for your high assessment of my work over the past 17 years, Mr Ivanov added that his four years and eight months as head of the presidential administration made him the longest serving Kremlin chief of staff since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Mr Ivanov was once viewed as a possible successor to Mr Putin. He was seen as a leader of the hawkishly anti-Western camp of former spies who have come to dominate Kremlin policy-making.
The members who remain in office include Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the security council, and Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the FSB, the successor to the KGB. They are believed to have enjoined Mr Putin to make the vital decision to seize Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Many noted Ivanov’s removal seemed to not only mark a shift toward a changing of the guard, but also a change in his entourage’s attitude toward him.