Prague, 24 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has sacked the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.
Putin, speaking on live television, described Kasyanov's government as "satisfactory." But he said he had ordered the resignation in order to take firm control of policy after the 14 March presidential election, which he is heavily favored to win.
"This decision [to dismiss the government] is not linked to my assessment of the work of this government, which I believe has been satisfactory on the whole. It is dictated by my wish to once again set out my position on what course Russia will take after March 14, 2004."
Putin named Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko to replace Kasyanov, who had served as prime minister since Putin was elected president in the spring of 2000.
Under the constitution, a new candidate for prime minister must be submitted to parliament within two weeks. All the ministers will remain in place until a new cabinet is appointed.