Deputy Prime Minister Surkov Steps Down

Deputy Prime Minister Surkov Steps Down

Published: May 9, 2013 (Issue # 1758)

Vladislave Surkov speaking at an event in 2010.

President Vladimir Putin has signed an order dismissing Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin said Wednesday.

The Kremlin portrayed the ouster of its once-time gray cardinal as the first Cabinet casualty in a drive to ensure that ministers fulfill Putin’s orders. But a friend said Surkov’s influence had waned and he quit because his advice was no longer being heeded.

“In accordance with paragraph D of Article 83 of the Russian Constitution, Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov has been released from the office of deputy prime minister at his own request,” the Kremlin said in a brief statement.

Paragraph D gives the president the right to hire and fire deputy prime ministers on the recommendation of the prime minister.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Surkov wrote a letter of resignation in connection with orders that the president had given the Cabinet to fulfill when it was first appointed last May, RIA-Novosti reported.

“The president’s decision to sign the document was connect to the implementation of presidential decrees in May and election promises and the work of a White House commission that deals with the implementation of these orders,” Peskov said.

Putin sharply criticized members of the Cabinet at a meeting Tuesday for failing to properly implement his orders.

A Kremlin-connected friend of Surkov indicated that the former deputy prime minister had little interest in remaining in the government.

“He created a system that was approved by many people in Russia. But he also was a man who saw cracks in this system, and he wanted to upgrade it, bringing new players into the game,” the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity so as to not damage her relationship with Surkov. “However, he wasn’t heard, so he washed his hands of the matter.”

Surkov wrote the resignation letter on April 26, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova said, RIA-Novosti reported.

Surkov said little about his resignation Wednesday, saying he would discuss it at a later time.

Surkov, who is credited for playing a key role in developing Putin’s political system as a long-time Kremlin deputy chief of staff, grabbed headlines over the May 1 holidays when he criticized the Investigative Committee for alleged violations in its politically tinged inquiry into embezzlement at Skolkovo, Russia’s answer to California’s Silicon Valley. Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin later published a newspaper column that suggested such criticism was inappropriate.

Investigators are looking into whether Skolkovo vice president Alexei Beltyukov embezzled $750,000 and gave the money to opposition-minded State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov. On Tuesday, Beltyukov was placed on leave of absence, and Ponomaryov was questioned by investigators.

Putin’s spokesman denied Wednesday that there was any link between Skolkovo and Surkov’s exit.

Ponomaryov on Wednesday called Surkov’s departure a “most serious blow” to Medvedev’s Cabinet, “Surkov’s resignation is the most serious blow to Medvedev’s government. I don’t know whether it was initiated by Putin or Surkov himself, but he was a key figure in Medvedev’s Cabinet,” he wrote on Twitter.

Political expert Dmitry Oreshkin told Kommersant FM radio that Surkov’s resignation showed that Putin had directly intervened in Medvedev’s Cabinet and predicted that Medvedev probably also faced dismissal.

Itar-Tass, citing an unidentified Cabinet official, said there were no plans to offer Surkov a new post in the government.

It was not immediately clear who might be appointed to oversee Surkov’s responsibilities as deputy prime minister in charge of economic modernization.

If Surkov is indeed out of government, he may face a promising future back in the private sector. Surkov spearheaded advertising and public relations for jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky from 1991 to 1996 and worked for Rosprom, Alfa Bank and Channel One television before Putin appointed him as a Kremlin aide and later deputy chief of staff in 2004. He was appointed deputy prime minister when Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term last May.

“I am not the poorest person after working in the business world for 10 years and I will, if necessary, work there again,” Surkov told London students last week. “I was successful in business before I joined the presidential administration. I was one of the most successful in my field.”

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