Russian lawmakers approve Mikhail Mishustin as next prime minister

Jan. 16 (UPI) — Russian lawmakers approved Mikhail Mishustin as the nation’s next prime minister on Thursday in the initial step toward rebuilding Moscow’s government, one day after a major shakeup spurred by planned constitutional reforms.

Mishustin unanimously won approval of Putin’s United Russia Party and the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, also confirmed him to the post by a vote of 383-0, although 41 lawmakers did not vote.

Mishustin, the head of Moscow’s Federal Tax Service, was nominated by Putin Wednesday to replace Dmitry Medvedev, who resigned after the Russian leader outlined sweeping changes to the Russian Constitution in his annual state of the nation speech.

Medvedev had been prime minister since 2012 following a four-year stint as president, during which time Putin occupied the prime minister’s office. Medvedev has been offered a position as deputy chief of Russia’s Security Council and will retain his position as head of the United Russia Party.

The surprise resignation of Medvedev’s government immediately followed Putin’s speech Wednesday. The planned changes include a two-term limit for Russian presidents and giving the Duma power to nominate candidates for prime minister.

Many observers believe Putin is implementing the changes as a means to keep power, perhaps as prime minister again, after his presidency expires in 2024.

Russian lawmakers will soon consider a national referendum on the changes as early as May 1, state-run news agency Tass reported.