Leading article: Government, interrupted

The resignation of Russia's Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, is the unexpected fall-out from a backroom deal under which the country's two top men would swap jobs, with Vladimir Putin standing for President again and Dmitry Medvedev promised the post of Prime Minister.

Mr Kudrin apparently felt piqued at being by-passed, said publicly that policy differences precluded him from serving under a Prime Minister Medvedev, and was given 24 hours to consider his position. He resigned.

But this is not only, or even chiefly, a tale of frustrated ambition. Mr Kudrin had been Finance Minister for 11 years; he had served both Mr Medvedev and Mr Putin loyally, and gained respect far beyond Russia for the way he had steered the country's economy through the choppy waters of recent years. His sudden departure cannot but erode confidence in the health of Russia's finances.

In the longer term, however, such a major and unplanned ruction in the mostly static world of the Kremlin might not be all negative. Policy disagreements, personal rivalries and precipitate resignations are the stuff of real politics. Mr Kudrin's decision suggests that the governance of Russia may become harder to stitch up.

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