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Putin 'sidelines' strategist

The reassignment of the Kremlin's top political strategist to a job as deputy prime minister was a demotion sparked by a dispute with the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, reports said yesterday.

MOSCOW // The reassignment of the Kremlin's top political strategist to a job as deputy prime minister was a demotion sparked by a dispute with the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, reports said yesterday.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Vladislav Surkov, the man credited with designing Russia's tightly controlled political system, was leaving his job as deputy Kremlin chief of staff and would take charge of economic modernisation.

"Surkov has his vision of the development of events after the mass meetings and his opinion differs from that of Putin's circle," the Vedomosti daily quoted a source in the Kremlin administration as saying.

The paper said Putin's circle was also unhappy that Mr Surkov had failed to prevent the protests breaking out.

"It seems Surkov had got tired of his role - whether it was as Faust or the devil," wrote the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

Mr Surkov's differences with Mr Putin date back to the May announcement of the creation of an All-Russian Popular Front to rally support for Mr Putin, in which Surkov was not involved, the pro-government Izvestia daily reported.

"This kind of politician [Surkov] that used to exist has now been exhausted . The work of the new government is going to be a little different," it quoted a source close to the government as saying.