Russia's parliament will begin reviewing President Vladimir Putin's nomination of a little-known tax chief as the new prime minister Thursday, following the shock resignation of Dimitri Medvedev's government.
The State Duma lower parliament, where the Kremlin holds a majority, is likely to approve Mikhail Mishustin for the role.
The surprise nomination came after a state of the nation speech by Putin in which he proposed a constitutional shake-up, including increasing the powers of prime ministers and members of the cabinet.
Experts and critics said it was part of a move by Putin to weaken the role of the president before his term ends in 2024.
Russia's president thanked Medvedev — who has been offered a new position as vice-chairman of the Security Council — for his service but said the government had not met its objectives.
Putin's first stint as Russian president ran for eight years until 2008, before Medvedev took over for four years while his predecessor became prime minister. Medvedev then stepped aside to allow Putin to return as president in 2012.
Mishustin, who has no political experience, is credited with modernising Russia's tax system. Analyst Gleb Pavlovsky, a former Putin adviser, told the Interfax news agency that Mishustin is a ''splendid bureaucrat, in the best sense of the word.''
What has been the reaction?
"There are different options here, but in any case we can assume that this is the beginning of what we call the transit of power in Russia," Yuliy Nisnevich, a political scientist at the Higher School of Economics, told Euronews.
"Perhaps it also speaks about the early resignation of the president.
"This is not a momentary whim, not a momentary decision. It has clearly been prepared, there is some kind of plan for the change of power.
"It's hard to say which one."
Political activist Alexei Navalny, a critic of Putin, tweeted: "Remaining the sole leader for life, taking ownership of an entire country, and appropriating wealth to himself and his friends is the only goal of Putin and his regime."
Russian political expert Ivan Preobrazhensky said Medvedev had not been "formally downgraded" but rather "sidelined".
"It means a complete restart of the system and perhaps the announcement of early elections in the near future," he added.
What else did Putin say in his state of the nation speech?
Putin said he agreed the same person should not hold the office of president for two consecutive terms, adding that he thought the president should still be able to determine the "priorities" of the government and be able to remove ministers.
Putin's term will end in 2024 and experts are now speculating on his future plans. Medvedev could be a potential successor as he previously served as president after the end of Putin's last consecutive terms.
Alexander Baunov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Centre, said on Twitter that the proposed changes would weaken the presidency whereas the state council will have "increased powers".
Putin's address to the Russian nation included boasts about the state of Russia's nuclear and military power. Putin said the country did not need to play catch up to any other nation.
He also spoke about Russia's role in the world, stating that the "five nuclear powers" bear responsibility for preserving mankind and should work to prevent global war.