Jan 15, 2020

Russia's prime minister resigns as Putin prepares for transition

Medvedev (R) and Putin. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his cabinet resigned Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin announced major changes to the structure of Russia's government.

Why it matters: This is part of a much wider shakeup. Putin is facing constitutional term limits that, unless amended, will force him to leave office in 2024. In his state of the nation address, Putin proposed a referendum that would shift more power to the prime minister and cabinet and away from any presidential successor.

Medvedev said after Putin's speech that, “under these conditions, I believe it would be right for the government of the Russian Federation to resign," per the WSJ.

  • Medvedev served as president from 2008-2012 when Putin was serving as prime minister, and the two swapped jobs upon Putin's return to the Kremlin.
  • Putin said Medvedev would be offered the newly created post of deputy chairman of Russia’s security council.
  • Medvedev is unpopular, and has occasionally been used by Putin as a scapegoat for the government's failings.
  • Putin's choices for prime minister and other top jobs will be closely watched for hints that a successor is being groomed.

Details: "Putin suggested amending Russia’s constitution to limit a future president to two terms in office — he has served four — tightening residency requirements for presidential candidates, and letting parliament choose candidates for prime minister and the cabinet, in effect weakening the presidency," per the Guardian.

What to watch: Putin could return as prime minister in 2024 or take charge of the state council, which will also become more powerful.

  • Another theory is that he will place himself at the head of a potential new commonwealth between Russia and Belarus.

Go deeper... 20 Years of Putin: Tracing his rise from KGB to Kremlin

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Why it matters: Several of the world’s most powerful leaders have recently shifted the rules in order to keep power past normal transitions.

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YouTube evades Putin's media chokehold

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Vladimir Putin has gone to extreme lengths to control the flow of information in Russia, but there’s one step he hasn’t dared take: shutting down YouTube.

Why it matters: One of Putin’s first initiatives upon taking office 20 years ago was to bring Russia’s independent TV networks under his control. But YouTube has replaced TV in the news and entertainment diets of Russians under 30, and it's become the go-to platform for Putin’s critics, Russian journalist Andrey Loshak tells Axios.

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