Rumours of resignation push Kremlin towards crisis

Russia is tipping towards political crisis amid reports that the President's influential chief of staff, Aleksandr Voloshin, had resigned.

Mr Voloshin, 47, the most senior Russian political figure after the President and the Prime Minister, is also the most senior Kremlin official to survive from Boris Yeltsin's presidency. His departure would represent a definitive break between the two administrations just six weeks before parliamentary elections, and could undermine his ally, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

The independent business newspaper, Vedomosti, reported it had been told by two independent sources that President Vladimir Putin had signed a letter accepting Mr Voloshin's resignation on Tuesday evening. The paper described the development as "the most important personnel decision of Mr Putin's career" and "a watershed" between Mr Putin's first term in office and his second, which is confidently expected to start after presidential elections in the spring.

The English language newspaper, The Moscow Times, reported that Mr Voloshin wanted to leave but that Mr Putin was hesitating about letting him go. By yesterday evening, there had was only a vague statement from the Kremlin. "If this were the case, the press service would have announced it. Those who say this do not have official information," said Alexei Gromov, a presidential press spokesman. Several officials close to both the President and Mr Voloshin said there had been no resignation, although one source declined to rule out an imminent reshuffle in the President's entourage.

The rumours and counter-rumours appear to have been sparked by differences between competing Kremlin factions on two subjects: what policies Mr Putin should campaign for re-election on, and the recent heavy-handed arrest of Russia's richest oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Mr Khodorovsky, head of the Yukos oil company, is in a Moscow prison after being arrested at Novosibirsk airport last Saturday. He has been charged with fraud and tax evasion. Mr Voloshin is seen as sympathetic towards Mr Khodorovsky.

"The real balance of power in the Kremlin has shifted to people in uniforms. For big business this [Voloshin's resignation] means 'pack your bags'," said Dmitry Oreshkin of the Merkator think-tank.

Mr Voloshin rose during the reign of Yeltsin and was known for his loyalty to his boss. He also helped transform Mr Putin from a grey intelligence chief into an international leader, and was involved in negotiations with the US in the run-up to the conflict in Iraq.

"This will increase instability and an imbalance between influential groups in the Kremlin. However, it is necessary to get rid of the Yeltsin-era elite which created the conditions for oligarch-dominated business and a corrupt bureaucracy," Liliya Shevtsova, an analyst at Carnegie Endowment think-tank said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence