Putin reappoints his prime minister, a technocrat who has kept a low political profile

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin reappointed Mikhail Mishustin as the country’s prime minister on Friday, a widely anticipated move to keep on a technocrat who has maintained a low political profile.

Mishustin and other technocrats in the Cabinet have been credited with maintaining a relatively stable economic performance despite bruising Western sanctions for Russia’s role in Ukraine. Most other Cabinet members are expected to keep their jobs, though the fate of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appeared uncertain.

In line with Russian law, Mishustin, 58, who held the job for the past four years, submitted his Cabinet’s resignation on Tuesday when Putin began his fifth presidential term at a glittering Kremlin inauguration.

Mishustin, the former head of Russia’s tax service, steered clear of political statements and avoided media interviews during his previous tenure.

During Friday’s meeting with Putin, he assured the president that “there will be no breaks in the government’s work” and pledged to “ensure continuity on all national goals.”

“We will do everything for the development of our economy to justify people’s trust,” Mishustin said.

Hours after Putin submitted Mishustin’s candidacy to the lower house, the State Duma, lawmakers vetted it at a quickly organized session.

Under the constitutional changes approved in 2020, the lower house approves the candidacy of the prime minister, who then submits Cabinet members for approval. The changes were ostensibly meant to grant parliament broader power, but the procedure is widely seen as pro forma given the Kremlin’s overwhelming control over the body.

Most Cabinet members are expected to keep their jobs, but it was not clear if Shoigu, the defense minister, would be among them after last month’s arrest of his top associate, Timur Ivanov.

Ivanov, who served as deputy defense minister in charge of massive military construction projects, was arrested on bribery charges and was ordered to stay in custody pending official investigation.

The arrest of Ivanov was widely interpreted as an attack on Shoigu and a possible precursor of his dismissal despite his close personal ties with Putin.

Shoigu was broadly criticized for Russian military’s setbacks in the early stage of the fighting in Ukraine. He faced scathing attacks from mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who marched on Moscow nearly a year ago to demand the ouster of Shoigu and the chief of the General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

After Prigozhin’s death in a suspicious plane crash two months after the rebellion — widely seen as the Kremlin’s revenge — Shoigu appeared to shore up his position. But Ivanov’s arrest, interpreted by many as part of Kremlin’s political infighting, again exposed Shoigu’s vulnerability.

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