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Russian President Accepts Resignation Of Deputy PM Surkov

Then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (right) talks with Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov as they attend a meeting on the modernization of regional systems of higher education in the Siberian city of Kurgan in February 2012.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted the resignation of influential Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov.

The Kremlin statement on May 8 said Surkov, who was once Putin's top political strategist, had left his post voluntarily.

The resignation came one day after Putin reprimanded the government for failing to carry out all his presidential decrees.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the resignation was connected with that failure.

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That was backed up by Sergei Zheleznyak, deputy chairman of the United Russia faction in the State Duma, in an interview with the television channel Rossia 24.

"The key issue for the entire government and everything that is going on at the executive branch of the government right now is the issue of the implementation of presidential orders. This ought to be an indisputable priority for every official," Zheleznyak said.

"This is exactly the issue that was at the center of Tuesday's meeting between the president and cabinet members. I believe that this issue will remain central for the president and the prime minister on a daily basis."

Meanwhile, federal investigators are probing accusations of embezzlement at the Skolkovo Innovation Center, where Surkov sits on a supervisory board. Skolkovo is a government project modeled on California's Silicon Valley that is aimed at promoting innovation.

In April, Russian criminal investigators accused a Skolkovo executive of embezzling $750,000 in state funds. Last week in London, Surkov sharply criticized the investigators and questioned their ability to prove anyone's guilt.

On May 7, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin was quoted in the pro-Kremlin "Izvestia" newspaper as saying that a cabinet member should not be allowed to remain in his post after making critical comments about his country while on a trip abroad.

Peskov, the presidential spokesman, denied Surkov's resignation was connected in any way with his comments about the Skolkovo investigation.

In his role as deputy prime minister, Surkov was responsible for the country's economic modernization.

From 1999 until 2011, he was deputy chief of the Russian presidential administration and was considered an architect of Russia's tightly controlled political system, which he described as "sovereign democracy."

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and ITAR-TASS
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