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Putin picks low-profile tax chief as new PM after government resigns

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the State Council in Moscow. Picture: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the State Council in Moscow. Picture: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Published Jan 16, 2020


Moscow - Mikhail Mishustin, President

Vladimir Putin's surprise choice to become Russia's prime

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minister, is a tax chief with almost no political profile who

analysts say could be a "technocratic placeholder."

The Kremlin-dominated lower house of parliament, which

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rarely opposes Putin on important issues, is due to decide

whether to approve Mishustin on Thursday.

Mishustin, 53, has been the head of the Federal Tax Service

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since 2010 and has worked in government roles related to tax

collection since the early days of his career.

He has won praise for improving tax collection processes and

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more than doubling tax revenues in the past decade, with 20.4

trillion roubles ($331.92 billion) collected in the first 11

months of last year.

The majority of those revenues still come from taxes on the

vast energy sector but an increasing share now comes from other

forms of taxation after an efficiency drive.

Despite these successes, Mishustin's name had not appeared

in many lists of potential candidates for the post.

"Mishustin does not have any political experience or

popularity with the electorate, and is not part of Putin's inner

circle," Tatiana Stanovaya, Nonresident Scholar at the Carnegie

Moscow Center, wrote on social media.

She said Mishustin would be unlikely to run in the

presidential election due when Putin's fourth term ends in 2024,

adding: "(It) seems highly likely that Mishustin is just a

technocratic placeholder."

Russia has had technocrats as prime minister before,

including when Putin was cementing his grip on power after 2000.

"(Mishustin) looks a lot like the technocratic premiers...

of the early 2000s," Stanovaya said.

Russian Tax Service chief Mikhail Mishustin listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. Picture: Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP


Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin ally, stepped down as prime

minister on Wednesday, making way for constitutional changes

which would give Putin scope to extend his hold on power after

leaving the presidency. Putin also suggested diminishing the

powers of the presidency and beefing up those of the prime


Like Putin, Mishustin enjoys ice hockey and is on the boards

of CSKA Moscow ice hockey club and the Russian Ice Hockey


An engineer by training, Mishustin joined the government tax

service in 1998 and spent five years as a deputy tax minister

from 1999 to 2004.

Market participants credit a background in the tech sector

for his success in bringing taxation in Russia into the digital

age. Payments for both individuals and businesses have become

simpler and a predominantly online process.

Digitalisation has also led to a drop in tax evasion and a

reduced role for the shadow economy, with many small and medium

enterprises beginning to pay taxes.

Mishustin told Vedomosti newspaper in 2018 he did not see ka

return to the private sector.

"But if destiny chooses a different path for me, I would

work in innovations, with new technologies, in the same field as

I have always worked: transformation, related to the digital

economy," he said.


Related Topics:

Vladimir Putin