Putin Picks Russia’s Head Taxman Mikhail Mishustin to Lead New Government

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed the head of the country’s tax office Mikhail Mishustin as Prime Minister to replace the outgoing Dmitry Medvedev late on Wednesday, state-run news agency TASS reported.

It was the last major political move in a dramatic news day for Russia, after Putin announced a major constitutional shake-up that would strengthen the role of the government and parliament at the expense of the presidency. Medvedev resigned along with the whole cabinet only a few hours later on Wednesday.

Mishustin’s appointment continued the theme of breaking with the way the government has been run over the last two decades and is yet another signal that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to be seen to be making a fresh start, bne Intellinews wrote.

53-year-old Mishustin has been the head of the Federal Tax Service since 2010 and has worked in government roles related to tax collection since the early days of his career.

He has won praise for improving tax collection processes and more than doubling tax revenues in the past decade, with 20.4 trillion rubles ($331.92 billion) collected in the first 11 months of last year. The majority of those revenues still come from taxes on the vast energy sector but an increasing share now comes from other forms of taxation after an efficiency drive.

Despite these successes, Mishustin’s name had not appeared in many lists of potential candidates for the post.

“Mishustin does not have any political experience or popularity with the electorate, and is not part of Putin’s inner circle,” Tatiana Stanovaya, Nonresident Scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on social media, according to Reuters.

She said Mishustin would be unlikely to run in the presidential election due when Putin’s fourth term ends in 2024, adding: “(It) seems highly likely that Mishustin is just a technocratic placeholder.”

Russia has had technocrats as prime minister before, including when Putin was cementing his grip on power after 2000.

“(Mishustin) looks a lot like the technocratic premiers… of the early 2000s,” Stanovaya said.

The other big news from the comprehensive shake-up of the government was the announcement by Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov that he was standing down “for health reasons”, with Russian media reports said he may be promoted and given a role in the new federal government. Kadyrov, recently praised by Putin as a “hero of Russia”, is one of the most notorious figures in the country’s politics and has been accused of multiple murders and running death squads in the Caucasian republic that was blighted by two separatist wars until he took over.

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