President Dmitry Medvedev sacked a rebellious Finance Minister in a first test of strength for the Kremlin ruling duumvirate after their decision to switch jobs. Mr. Medvedev dismissed longest serving Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin on Monday for criticising the Kremlin’s spending policies.
On a visit to Washington over the weekend Mr. Kudrin told reporters that he had “many disagreements with Medvedev on economic policy, first of all concerning the significant military spending.” Mr. Kudrin said he would refuse to serve in a future cabinet to be led by Mr. Medvedev. His comments were seen as challenging the decision by Mr. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to swap jobs next year that was unveiled on Saturday.
Mr. Medvedev demanded a resignation letter from Mr. Kudrin after harshly dressing him down for breaching “discipline and subordination” at a government meeting in front of television cameras. “If you do not agree with the President’s course, and the government enacts the President’s course, then you have only one option, and you know what it is: to resign,” Mr. Medvedev said.
Mr. Kudrin, looking stung but defiant, said he would seek the advice of the Prime Minister Mr. Putin, who is now the Prime Minister, before giving an answer. “You can seek advice from whomever you want, including from the Prime Minister, but as long as I am President, I will make such decisions,” Mr. Medvedev retorted.
A few hours later, Mr. Medvedev’s press secretary announced that Mr. Kudrin had been dismissed on Mr. Putin’s recommendation.
Mr. Kudrin, who served as Finance Minister since 2000, was widely believed to be angling for the post of Prime Minister after Mr. Putin’s proposed return as President in the March, 2012 elections. His criticism of Mr. Medvedev over government expenditures was clearly misplaced as it is Mr. Putin who takes such decisions.
Mr. Kudrin’s departure could well be a clever gambit by Mr. Putin to get rid of the overly ambitious Finance Minister with the help of Mr. Medvedev.
The previously incorrect picture in the story has been replaced with the correct one.