Putin sidelines strategist after protests

Putin sidelines strategist after protests

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has sidelined the strategist who designed Russia’s tightly-controlled politics, in a move seen as a reaction to the outburst of protests challenging his rule.

President Dmitry Medvedev announced Dec. 27 that Vladislav Surkov was leaving his job as first deputy Kremlin chief of staff and would take charge of economic modernization as deputy prime minister. The move came after the first mass protests since the 1990s over disputed Dec. 4 parliamentary elections rattled the authorities as Putin plans to return to the presidency in 2012 polls after his four year stint as premier.

“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. “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. The pro-government Izvestia daily said 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.

Meanwhile, Putin has rejected the possibility of talks with opposition leaders who drew tens of thousands of people to protest rallies across the country. The prime minister told Russian news agencies yesterday that “there’s no one to talk to” among the leaders. Putin on Dec. 27 firmly rejected the protesters’ demands. Putin served as Russia’s president in 2000-2008 and is now seeking a third term in office.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.