MOSCOW, May 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s influential Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov has stepped down, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, amid increasing tensions over the embattled Skolkovo innovation hub that has been targeted by law enforcement agencies.
“The president has accepted Surkov’s resignation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.
He added that Surkov, long known as a powerful Kremlin ideologue, submitted his resignation on Tuesday after President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with the Cabinet, at which Putin harshly criticized the ministers.
Peskov said that “the president’s decision to accept his resignation” is connected to the carrying out of decrees issued by Putin last May and to the work of the government commission responsible for that. He did not elaborate.
It was not immediately clear whether Surkov would be appointed to a different state office or not.
Surkov, who is considered to be one of the architects of the Kremlin-centric “power vertical” political system, was appointed by then-President Dmitry Medvedev as deputy prime minister in charge of modernization in 2011.
He is also a member of the board of trustees for Skolkovo’s coordinating body, the Skolkovo Foundation, and chairman of the board of trustees of the project’s university, the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. It was not immediately clear whether he would keep those posts.
Before joining the government, Surkov helped to create the current political system during his 11 years in the presidential administration, giving rise to him becoming known as Russia’s “gray cardinal.”
Surkov could not be reached for comment on his resignation. In a brief Facebook post he simply wrote: “Will respond to everyone at once: Yes, it’s true.”
His resignation comes amid a mounting crackdown by law enforcement agencies on the Skolkovo Foundation.
The investigations into fraud allegations at the high-tech hub prompted a rare public spat between Surkov and Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin.
Last week, Surkov spoke about investigators’ excessive zeal in the case, to which Markin responded Tuesday with a commentary in the Izvestia daily, in which he alleged that Skolkovo’s defenders are trying to derail the investigation by presenting it as political persecution.
Last month, the Investigative Committee alleged that the Skolkovo Foundation illegally paid $750,000 to the opposition State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov, who has denied any wrongdoing.
Criminal investigations were opened into two senior Skolkovo executives in February over the alleged embezzlement of $800,000. Subsequent searches by law enforcement agencies at the offices of the Skolkovo Foundation disrupted the schedules of top managers.