Russian president Vladimir Putin dissolves government

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin dissolved Russia's government Wednesday in a major political shakeup ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, the Kremlin said.

The dissolution is expected to result in a new prime minister, who will be seen as Putin's choice to succeed him after he steps down next spring.

The newspaper Vedomosti, citing unidentified Kremlin officials, reported that Sergei Ivanov, a first deputy prime minister and a leading contender to succeed Putin, could be appointed to replace Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

Another first deputy prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who is a top executive at natural gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, is considered the other leading contender.

Under the constitution, Putin has two weeks to propose a new head of government, which the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, then has a week to vote on. Russian news agencies said Fradkov would serve as acting prime minister until the vote.

Fradkov said he asked for the dissolution of the government because with elections approaching, Putin needed to have a free hand to make decisions, including those concerning appointments.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Dec. 2, followed some three months later by presidential balloting.

"You might be right that we must all think about how to structure the government so that it better suits the pre-election period and prepares the country for what will happen after the parliamentary and presidential elections," Putin said.

Liveleak on Facebook

Advertisers