Russian president Vladimir Putin has fired Sergei Ivanov, his chief of staff and once one of his closest allies, in the most high-profile power reshuffle at the Kremlin in years.
The Kremlin press office issued the order to "relieve Sergei Ivanov of his duties". The stern statement was followed by footage of a meeting of Mr Putin, Mr Ivanov and the new chief of staff, Anton Vayno.
Despite the clear appearance that Mr Ivanov had been forced out, the president insisted he was making the move at his one-time ally’s request because he had been too long in the job.
“I’m happy with how you handle tasks in your line of work,” Mr Putin said. “I remember well our agreement that you had asked me not to keep you as chief of the presidential administration for more than four years and that is why I understand your desire to choose another line of work.”
Former KGB officer Mr Ivanov, a former defence minister and deputy prime minister, had been seen as one of Mr Putin's closest allies. He was considered a likely successor to Mr Putin before the leader chose Dmitry Medvedev to run for president in 2008 when he was unable to stand himself due to term limitations.
In a symbolic gesture, Mr Putin appointed Mr Ivanov a special envoy for transportation and environment, seen as a downgrade for the man who had been considered one of the most influential in Russia.
In a subtle hint to the fact that his political career is over, the 63-year-old thanked Mr Putin in televised remarks for his “high assessment of my work during the past 17 years”.
Mr Ivanov was also taken off the security council, Russia’s main security body which includes Mr Putin, chairmen of the parliament and chiefs of security services.