President Vladimir Putin’s surprise announcement of a relative unknown for prime minister has sparked fervent speculation in Russia over his political intentions. Financial watchdog chief Viktor Zubkov has taken over as premier, after Mikhail Fradkov said he was stepping down to allow the President to take “crucial political decisions” ahead of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
Political analyst Viktor Kremenyuk said at least one question was now answered: “Evidently Mr Putin is leaving, and the period of different discussions and hesitations and doubt over whether he will leave or not is over. As of tomorrow everyone in the Russian political class will understand that Putin will not be president as of March.”
But another question remains. Is dark horse Zubkov a possible contender to replace Putin, or another caretaker prime minister as Fradkov was always viewed.
Analyst Alexei Mukhin said: “It is unlikely that Putin would break the balance of power and change the situation which is in favour of Sergei Ivanov, who is a real replica of him.”
Everyone expected Ivanov to become Prime Minister. But Putin has always insisted he will not name a successor. Ivanov himself has said the Kremlin-linked United Russia Party will name its presidential candidate next month. He is the favourite to secure the nomination.