Latest Kremlin appointment may signal major change

Harry Bone
BBC Monitoring

  • Published
Anton VainoImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Anton Vaino

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Sergei Ivanov as Kremlin chief of staff and replaced him with one of his deputies, Anton Vaino.

Mr Ivanov is considered one of Putin's closest associates. The message from state TV is that the move is a pre-arranged reshuffle that is long overdue. Yet it could be part of wider shifts in the corridors of power.

Russian state news channel Rossia 24 showed Putin meeting the two men and explaining their new appointments. Mr Ivanov is now special presidential representative for environmental protection, ecology and transport.

Mr Putin praised Mr Ivanov's work and said they had agreed he would step down long ago. Mr Ivanov confirmed this. He had in fact worked eight months longer in the post than the four years they had agreed, he told Mr Putin.

Mr Ivanov, smiling and apparently relaxed, said he would do his best in his new job. Mr Vaino accepted his new role with a formal, bureaucratic response, apparently unused to the limelight.

Who is Vaino?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Since 2002 Mr Vaino has held various posts organising presidential protocol for Putin

A little known figure, Mr Vaino comes from the "higher echelons of the Soviet party elite", business daily Vedomosti says.

His grandfather headed the Communist Party in Estonia (1978-88). His father has held top jobs in automaker AvtoVaz, which is best known for making Ladas.

Mr Vaino is also someone who is "personally loyal to Putin", the paper said, quoting "several sources". His career, as described on the Kremlin website, does show that he has moved around with the president.

Born in the Estonian capital Tallinn in 1972, he studied at MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations), a prestigious institute for future diplomats run by the foreign ministry.

After graduating in 1996, he worked at the Russian embassy in Tokyo, then in the Second Asian Department of the foreign ministry.

From 2002 he held various posts organising presidential protocol for Mr Putin.

But in October 2007, months before Mr Putin became prime minister, he was transferred to the Russian government to work under the Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev. He became deputy chief of the government staff.

In April 2008, a month before Mr Putin took office as prime minister, he became chief of the prime minister's protocol, while retaining his previous position. In 2011, he became chief of the government staff.

Yet within days of Mr Putin's return to the presidency in May 2012, Mr Vaino moved too, appointed deputy head of the presidential administration.

Who is Ivanov?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Ivanov (L) had been head of the presidential administration since 2011

A former KGB colleague of Putin, Mr Ivanov is seen as one of the president's inner circle.

Along with Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu and secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, he is considered one of the top siloviki - hardline officials with a security service or military background.

Mr Ivanov was defence minister under Mr Putin (2001-07).

He later became deputy prime minister, and before the presidential election in 2008 was considered a likely candidate to succeed Mr Putin as president.

Mr Ivanov had been head of the presidential administration since 2011.

What next?

The shake-up is the latest in a series of reshuffles in Russia's ruling elite in recent months. It could signal change in the Kremlin, both in substance and style.

First, Mr Vaino has a very different background and character from his predecessor. He is an effective manager and "benign official who avoids intrigue", a source told Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper. His arrival could lead to a "reduction in the level of aggression", another source said.

Second, Mr Vaino could be destined for greater things. After all, President Boris Yeltsin plucked Mr Putin from obscurity to be his successor in 2000.

But what about Mr Ivanov? His appointment is nominally a demotion, perhaps part of an ongoing pattern.

According to anti-Kremlin commentator Stanislav Belkovsky, Mr Putin is replacing old associates with servants. Mr Putin "is feeling burdened by his old friends, especially as they have decided that they can do anything", apparently with impunity.

Yet Mr Ivanov appeared genuinely pleased throughout today's televised meeting. After all, he ran the Kremlin longer than anyone else, he told Mr Putin, beaming. At 63, perhaps he is looking for a quieter life - an environmental job in the great outdoors?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Ivanov appeared genuinely pleased throughout the televised meeting

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