Thirty days away from parliamentary elections, President Vladimir Putin elected to replace his long-time ally Sergei Ivanov as Kremlin chief of staff, appointing a low-profile former diplomat in his place on Friday.
Anton Vaino, 44, was assigned to the important post which involves drafting laws for the president to submit to parliament, monitoring their enforcement and conducting analysis of domestic and foreign affairs for the president, Putin.
Personnel changes in the Kremlin’s inner circle are rare and Putin is often described as valuing loyalty above all else. The latest switch follows a reshuffle of regional leaders last month.
Analysts offered opposing views as to whether Ivanov had been pushed out of the Kremlin, with some seeing his exit as a sign that Putin was nervous ahead of elections and others saying Ivanov, 63, had been looking to quit for some time.
Timothy Ash, a policymaker at Nomura bank, suggested Putin could have removed Ivanov because Putin was worried about his popularity ahead of the elections.
“There has been evidence that Putin has been further concentrating power, with the creation of a presidential guard, and I think this is further evidence of this – removing potential rivals,” Ash said.
Ivanov’s departure follows the high-profile exits of the head of ailing state development bank VEB in February and the boss of Russian Railways last year.
Putin, in a Kremlin meeting shown on state TV, told Ivanov that the pair had worked well together.
“I understand your desire to move to another sphere of work,” Putin said, saying Ivanov would become his special representative for ecology and transport.
Ivanov said he had asked Putin to move him on from the post after four years and that he had done the job for four years and eight months.
Vaino, his replacement, used to work in the Russian Embassy in Japan and has worked as deputy head of the Kremlin administration since 2012.