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20 Feb, 2020 18:00

‘No one mentioned Mishustin, except me’: Putin reveals new Russian PM wasn't on original shortlist

‘No one mentioned Mishustin, except me’: Putin reveals new Russian PM wasn't on original shortlist

When Dmitry Medvedev unexpectedly stepped down as Russia's prime minister in January, it stunned political observers. Especially when his replacement was so little known he even lacked an English-language Wikipedia entry.

Now, Vladimir Putin has revealed that he hand-selected Mikhail Mishustin, despite him not being on the first draft of contenders. During an interview with Moscow's TASS News Agency, the Russian president spoke about his reasons for change and his current mindset.

On January 16, 2020, Putin's state-of-the-nation speech was followed with mass resignations in the Government, including that of Medvedev, long regarded as his most loyal ally. The appointment of Mishustin caught "Russia Watchers" unawares, and most had almost certainly not even heard of him before.

"No one mentioned Mishustin, except me," Putin said, "Three, or maybe even four candidates were submitted. But Mishustin was not on the list."

When asked about the reasons for his choice, the president replied: "I took into account the personal traits and professional skills of Mr Mishustin."

When asked if he took into consideration Mishustin's successful digitization of the Federal Tax Service, Putin replied, "Not the fact that he carried [the digitization] out, but the fact that he really became an expert in this area. [He's] a man of practice, who understands very well what needs to be done and who knows how to do it.. and achieves concrete results."

Vladimir Putin was not only questioned about the future but the past. When asked about the performance of the previous government, Putin said that "the previous cabinet had really done a lot in terms of preparing the main phase of the implementation of national projects," and highlighted that much of the last government's "core" remains.

When asked why the government resignation happened unexpectedly, the president stated that if he had given a warning, then work would have "stopped dead."

"Would it be better to spend another six months after the resignation of the Government, in order to form a new one? Can you imagine what a mess the country will be in? There should never be a gap in power. Never," he explained. "Everything should be discussed and thought through in advance in a calm, business-like manner, each step should be prepared, and then the decision should be taken and implemented. We cannot afford to muddle along here. Russia is not a country like Belgium, which can go a whole year without a government."

However, he did clarify that Medvedev had known beforehand and "was aware of what was happening."

The president also spoke about the selection of new ministers and highlighted that they were chosen not because of their names – but for their "professional qualifications." He finished by making it clear that there is no time to waste evaluating the competency of the new ministers, and no time for "getting warmed up."

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