MOSCOW: Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov, once one of Russia’s most influential men and the creator of Vladimir Putin’s tightly controlled political system, was ousted yesterday in a power struggle between the Kremlin and the government.
The Kremlin says President Putin has accepted the resignation of the man who for a decade wielded immense power as a behind-the-scenes gray cardinal as the former KGB spy, but later joined the camp of the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
His departure is a blow to Medvedev, who is coming under increasing pressure a year after swapping jobs with Putin for failing to halt Russia’s slide into recession.
“It’s of his own free will,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, dismissing suggestions that Surkov, 48, had been pushed. “It has to do with the executive orders not being carried out.”
But such decisions are almost always choreographed by Putin who, seated at the head of a table with ministers on either side, glared at Surkov as he scolded them in a meeting on Tuesday for not having carried out his orders and decrees. Russian media and political analysts have long said a rift has grown between Putin and Medvedev, his longtime ally and former president, although both deny it.
“Of course, this is a strike against Medvedev,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, an opposition political analyst. “Turns out he was just devoured. It will take time and the Prime Minister will also be devoured.
Surkov is best known in Russia for shaping the Kremlin mindset under Putin – confident, ruthlessly commercial, anti-Western and authoritarian despite his favorite phrase, “sovereign democracy”, under which Putin and his United Russia party dominate the political scene.
As Putin’s top political adviser, Surkov became known as the Kremlin’s puppeteer, Russia’s answer to French Cardinal de Richelieu, and was hated by opponents whom he often targeted with his acerbic wit.
One author wrote that he was “absolutely imperceptible as a living person” as the Gray Cardinal. But he came to be considered Russia’s third most powerful political figure, after Putin and Medvedev, and kept a portrait of Argentine-born revolutionary Che Guevara in his Kremlin office.
He left the Kremlin in December 2011 after street protests threatened Putin’s grip on power and attacked the very system he helped create, undermining what appeared to be his unrivaled mastery of the political scene. . He had also erred in calling the protesters the “better part of society” in Russia.
In government, Surkov had been responsible for overseeing the implementation of presidential decrees and innovation projects. Reuters