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Russian President Vladimir Putin and former chief of staff Sergei Ivanov during a meeting in the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2014 (Presidential Press Service photo by Alexei Nikolsky via AP).

Ivanov Dismissal Prompts Wave of Speculation About Putin’s Plans in Russia

Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016

The Moscow Kremlin, a UNESCO world heritage site, has been the seat of Russian tsars, commissars and presidents for the greater part of nine centuries. Its glittering palaces and churches, soaring towers and immense fortress walls have witnessed dramatic turning points in the history of Russia and the world. But if tourists now stream through daily to peruse ancient icons, Romanov family jewels and relics of martial glory, the Kremlin, in its political sense, remains an almost complete mystery to the outside world.

That is why Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dismissal last week of his chief of staff and longtime associate, Sergei Ivanov, who will accept a far lower-profile post as presidential environmental envoy, has provoked intense curiosity, market uncertainty and even speculation about Putin’s own imminent retirement. Neither Russian nor Western observers seem to know quite what to make of the move, so some weave elaborate theories about its connection with upcoming parliamentary elections, the ongoing—and recently escalating—conflict with Ukraine, or Putin’s longer-term ambitions to “reset” the Russian political system as a whole. ...

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