Russian government, PM Medvedev resign after Putin unveils reforms

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced on Wednesday that he and the rest of the Russian government were resigning, Russian news agencies reported.

The announcement came on the heels of President Vladimir Putin's annual speech to lawmakers where he proposed a series of constitutional reforms that would grant more powers to parliament — including the ability to select the prime minister.

The changes would make significant changes to the country's balance of power and so "the government in its current form has resigned," Medvedev said on state television while seated next to Putin.

The prime minister said the move was aimed at clearing the way for the changes to be made. Putin earlier said the constitutional amendments would be put to a referendum.

Putin has asked the outgoing government to continue to carry out their duties until a new government is formed. The Russian president added that he was "satisfied with the government's performance" although the government failed to fulfill certain tasks, reported news agency Interfax.

"Not everything worked out, but everything never works out," Putin said.

Kremlin power struggle

While Putin and Medvedev appeared to present a united front in their public appearance, Russian political analyst Alexey Kurtov interpreted the prime minister's resignation as a show of "disagreement" with sweeping changes suggested by Putin.

"I think this was a spontaneous reaction from Medvedev, who disagreed with the general line of the president's proposals," said Kurtov, who serves as president of the Russian Association of Political Consultants (RAPC).

According to Kurtov, Medvedev has been engaged in a long-running power struggle with the current Duma speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin. The proposed changes would give the Duma powers to appoint the prime minister.

Putin heading for the Duma?

The maneuver could prove crucial for Putin's future. The former FSB chief took power in 2000 and has since served as both president and prime minister. He is currently in his second consecutive term as president and is prohibited by law to run for another term.

"I wouldn't exclude that Putin sees himself taking on the speaker's chair in the parliament in the future," political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told DW. "Since Putin's main task now is to secure his own political future, we can assume he is paving the way for himself there."

Opposition politician and former economy minister Andrey Nechayev told DW that Puting was "sounding out the terrain, in order to stay in power forever."

While Medvedev is set to leave the prime ministerial seat, Putin signaled he would keep his longtime ally near the center of power as the deputy head of Russia's Security Council. The committee is chaired by Putin himself and deals with affairs of national security. The prime minister, several government ministers and heads of security agencies are among the council's members. On Wednesday, Putin suggested creating the position of Council's deputy chief and said Medvedev should take the post.

"It feels like Medvedev is being put in reserve," analyst Alexey Makarkin told Russia's Interfax news agency. "The Security Council post, which is offerted to Medvedev, is senior, but also not autonomous."

"I think that the new head of government will be a reasonably well-known figure" said Makarkin, who is the head of Moscow-based think-tank "Center of Political Technologies."

"Only a prime minister with political capabilities, a not a 'technical' person, can turn the plans announced by Putin into reality," he added.

Russian officials have not given any official information on who will succeed Medvedev as Russian's next prime minister. Russian law states that a new prime minister should be proposed no later than two weeks after the government resigns.

dj,rs/stb (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Every evening, DW sends out a selection of the day's news and features. Sign up here.