In a surprise move, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev submitted his resignation on Wednesday, along with the rest of the government’s principal ministers. Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Mikhail Mishustin, who previously served as head of the country’s tax service, as Medvedev’s replacement.
Putin’s comments following the resignation indicate that Medvedev will likely take a position on the newly-created Russian Security Council.
“Dmitry has always been dealing with these issues,” Putin said, according to NPR. “From the standpoint of enhancing our defense capability and security, I believe that it is possible and asked him to handle issues of this kind in the future.”
Many observers believe that this is part of a larger effort by Putin to overhaul the Russian constitution so that he can remain in power after his current presidential term is set to expire in 2024.
Putin’s grip on power
According to the Russian constitution, presidents are limited to serving two consecutive terms. In 2008, Putin stepped down as the country’s leader to become prime minister while Medvedev took his place.
Putin later returned to office in 2012, but it is widely believed that even while technically serving as prime minister during those intervening years, Putin continued to be the nation’s supreme authority.
In fact, when President Barack Obama was heard promising then-President Medvedev in 2012 that he would have “more flexibility” regarding relations with Russia following that year’s election in the United States, Medvedev replied that he would relay the information to Putin, according to Reuters, suggesting who was truly in control at the time.
Born in what was then known as Leningrad, Putin once worked as a KGB officer in East Germany. He came to international prominence in 1999 after being made acting president following the unexpected resignation of Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-communist leader.
Putin won election to the office in his own right a year later and was subsequently re-elected in 2004.
Human rights in Russia have deteriorated under Putin’s rule, with dissidents even being targeted abroad. The 2006 poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London is widely believed to have been done at Putin’s behest.
Expanding Russia’s reach
Meanwhile, Putin has attempted to modernize Russia’s military and expand the country’s influence across the globe. He has also overseen the invasions of neighboring Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, both of which sparked international condemnation.
President Trump has long been accused of having colluded with Putin’s regime during the run-up to the 2016 election in the United States, but a costly, multi-year investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no proof of coordination between the two.