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Long-time Putin aide Vladislav Surkov leaving Kremlin ‘over Ukraine course shift,’ reports claim

Long-time Putin aide Vladislav Surkov leaving Kremlin ‘over Ukraine course shift,’ reports claim
Russian media is all abuzz with reports that Vladislav Surkov, former Deputy PM, the ex-deputy head of the presidential administration and Vladimir Putin’s long-time influential aide, has exited government service.

The reports cite Surkov’s close associate Alexey Chesnakov who, writing on his Telegram Channel, said Surkov left his post, as an advisor to President Vladimir Putin, "in connection with the change of course in policy towards Ukraine." He noted that Surkov himself promised to reveal the details and talk about his future career plans next month.

Chesnakov later said that the President himself will decide when the announcement will be made public, but nothing will affect Surkov's decision. “I know this from Surkov himself,” the political scientist added.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, on Saturday afternoon, that the comment about altering Moscow's Ukraine strategy is untrue. Statements in this regard "reflect only the personal point of view of those who talk about it," he insisted, emphasizing that it was the private opinion of a particular person.

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Surkov was considered the Presidential Administration's "point man" on Ukraine. He accompanied Putin to Paris, last month, for peace talks, under the Normandy Format, featuring Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Moscow newspaper Kommersant reported on Saturday evening that the Ukraine brief will be handed over to Dmitry Kozak, who was appointed Deputy Kremlin Chief of Staff, this week. Kozak was born in Ukraine and is regarded as being strongly in favor of improved relations with Kiev.

Often dubbed the "gray cardinal" of Russian politics, Surkov entered the Kremlin in 1999 and has been ever-present since, in various roles. A native of Lipetsk, he's long fascinated analysts and journalists, both inside and outside Russia. He speaks English fluently and is known to be a fan of Allen Ginsberg and other American poets from the Beat Generation.

In February of last year, Surkov raised eyebrows when he published an essay, "The Long State of Putin," in Moscow's Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, which attempted to define "Putinism" as a political system. Rumors of his departure from the Kremlin have swirled in Moscow for years, and the latest reports will likely remain uncertain until there is an official government announcement.

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