Putin Dismisses Long-Time Ally Ivanov as His Chief-of-Staff

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Sergei Ivanov.

Photographer: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
  • Deputy chief-of-staff Anton Vaino will replace Ivanov
  • Ivanov named special representative for environment, transport

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise change in the Kremlin, dismissing Sergei Ivanov, his chief-of-staff since December 2011, as he makes way for younger blood by replacing some long-time allies.

Anton Vaino, 44, will replace Ivanov, the Kremlin said in a statement on Friday. Vaino had been deputy chief-of-staff since May 2012, when Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term as president. Before that, he was head of protocol and then head of government staff when Putin was prime minister. Born in Tallinn to a Soviet political family, Vaino is the grandson of Karl Vaino, the first secretary of the Estonian Communist Party from 1978 to 1988.

“Putin is czar so he needs a team of younger people that are 100 percent his, that haven’t had any authority in their lives other than him," Igor Bunin, director of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technologies, said by phone. “Ivanov knows not only Putin but knew Leonid Brezhnev as well and is a broad-minded person. And this created some discomfort for Putin.”

As a member of Putin’s closest circle, Ivanov, 63, was one of the handful of officials who worked on operations in Crimea, eastern Ukraine and Syria, Bunin said. The change is a part of a technocratic reform Putin hopes will lower the political risks from Russia’s current economic hardships, he said. Last month, Putin placed trusted security officials in key positions, carrying out a large shuffle of regional governors and envoys as Russia prepares for parliamentary elections in September.

Putin discussed the changes with both men in a meeting shown on state television, saying it was Ivanov’s request to switch to another job after four years. The president’s term expires in 2018. Ivanov was appointed Putin’s special representative for environment and transportation.

Ivanov, who had also served as defense minister and as deputy prime minister, worked with Putin in the KGB in Leningrad in the 1970s. In 2007, Ivanov was seen as a potential successor to Putin. Instead, current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took a four-year turn as president from 2008.

In the past year, Putin has dismissed several long-time allies, including Vladimir Yakunin, 68, who was head of Russian Railways JSC for a decade, and Vladimir Dmitriev, 62, who oversaw the indebted state development lender Vnesheconombank. He installed younger managers to help steer the companies during the country’s longest recession in two decades.

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