SOCHI, Russia - President Vladimir Putin issued a rare rebuke to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's government on Tuesday, criticising its fiscal plans and accusing cabinet ministers of failing to act on orders he issued after his return in May for a third Kremlin term.
Putin’s comments, in a meeting on budget strategy in the
Black Sea resort of Sochi, suggested his patience was wearing
thin with Medvedev just four months after the formation of a new
The 59-year-old Kremlin leader, who has dominated Russia
since 2000, said that the three-year draft fiscal plan failed to
take into account commitments in the decrees he issued after
returning to Russia‘s highest office.
“If everything remains as laid out in the (budget) plan,
then some or other of the points of these decrees cannot be
implemented, I already see this. But they must be implemented,”
Putin’s comments ran counter to his typical leadership
style, which is based on strong loyalty to his political allies
and continuity in government, and where disputes are rarely
aired in public.
They were made in the absence of Medvedev, who was chairing
a meeting outside Moscow of his ‘open government’ initiative, a
forum widely criticised as a talking shop that has generated few
worthwhile policy results.
Putin and Medvedev ruled Russia as close allies until early
this year in what became known as a ‘tandem’ arrangement.
Medvedev had taken over the presidency from Putin in 2008,
as the former KGB officer was prevented by the constitution from
serving more than two terms in succession. Putin retained
supreme power as prime minister until his return to the
presidency this eyar and Medvedev’s dispatch to the post of
prime minister. Since then there has been speculation Medvedev’s
star could be waning.
Putin called on Medvedev to reprimand two cabinet ministers
for failing to implement measures contained in the batch of
decrees setting out the policy priorities for his six-year term.
In addition to raising questions about Medvedev’s authority,
Putin’s comments also raised doubts over Russia‘s commitment to
balancing the budget over the medium term after heavy spending
ahead of the presidential election in March.
Putin singled out for criticism Labour Minister Maxim
Topilin and Regional Development Minister Oleg Govorun.
He said that, while it was not his personal responsibility
to reprimand ministers, he was drawing Medvedev’s attention to
“the need to issue a reprimand to the Minister of Labour and the
Minister of Regional Development.”
“The work of a minister implies personal responsibility for
the sector. And if something scheduled has not been implemented,
then this responsibility should be borne,” Putin said.
Putin said that despite his earlier order to the government
to produce a plan for pension reform by the end of this month,
no plan had yet been produced.
He also said that the government had failed to produce
proposals for accelerating the development of Siberia and the
Far East, also called for in his earlier presidential decrees.
The budget plan is due to be formally discussed by Russia‘s
cabinet on Thursday. Putin’s harsh criticisms mean that the plan
is unlikely to be adopted in its present form.