Putin demotes close ally who was considered a possible successor
President Vladimir Putin has demoted one of his closest allies in a rare and dramatic shake-up of Russia's top leadership.
Sergei Ivanov, Mr Putin's chief of staff, was relieved of his duties in a televised meeting in the Kremlin yesterday.
Mr Ivanov will retain his seat on the Security Council, a consultative body of military and intelligence chiefs that advises Mr Putin.
"We have worked for many years together with great success," Mr Putin told his long-serving ally. "I understand your wish to take on work in other areas. I very much hope that you use your knowledge and experience for effective work in your new role," he said.
"Thank you for your high assessment of my work over the past 17 years," Mr Ivanov replied, referring to his service in government since Mr Putin came to power in 1999.
Mr Ivanov added that his four years and eight months as head of the presidential administration made him the longest-serving Kremlin chief of staff since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Mr Putin appointed Anton Vaino, a little-known deputy chief of the presidential administration, as Mr Ivanov's successor. He said Mr Ivanov had personally recommended Mr Vaino as a replacement.
Mr Ivanov has known Mr Putin since the two served together in the KGB, and he has served in a succession of top Kremlin posts. He was defence minister between 2001 and 2007, and was a first deputy prime minister during Dmitry Medvedev's presidency from 2008 to 2012. Mr Putin at the time was prime minister. Mr Putin appointed him chief of staff on his return to the Kremlin in 2012.
His new role as Mr Putin's special envoy on conservation, environment and transport will be seen by Kremlinologists as an unequivocal demotion.
A career intelligence officer, Mr Ivanov was considered one of the most powerful individuals in the country after Mr Putin himself and has frequently been identified as a likely successor.
He was widely seen as a leader of a hawkish, anti-Western camp of former intelligence officers who have come to dominate Kremlin policymaking in recent years.
Mr Ivanov is believed to be one of a small clique that made the decision to annex Crimea in 2014.