Russian PM under Pressure after Putin Rebuke


Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev came under new pressure Friday after a public rebuke from President Vladimir Putin over one of his signature reforms passed during his stint as Kremlin chief.

Putin said late Thursday upon returning from a trip to Asia that he had heard some public criticism of proposed new legislation that would return investigators' right to launch tax fraud cases.

The comments appeared aimed directly at criticism of the tax fraud legislation that Medvedev aired while Putin was on his trip to Vietnam and South Korea.

"I will have to look into who exactly is saying what," Interfax quoted Putin as telling a meeting of Kremlin advisers.

"But this issue has a very simple solution," he added.

"I will have to remind (critics) that we have a certain way of resolving issues before someone goes and talks about them to the press."

Medvedev took several steps to curb the influence of Russia's security forces while he was president between 2008 and 2012.

One such measure stripped investigators of the right to launch fraud cases against business owners without first receiving the go-ahead from the tax police.

Russia's business community had long viewed such criminal proceedings as arbitrary and a means by powerful but corrupt insiders to shut down their companies.

But Putin -- back in the Kremlin after ceding the president's seat to Medvedev when his two-term constitutional mandate expired in 2008 -- has not been shy about rolling back his predecessor's changes.

Medvedev said on Tuesday that he had made his position clear "when I introduced the corresponding draft law" in 2011.

He added that the fraud cases had in the past often been launched "based on (someone's) request or for money".

Analysts are especially closely watching for signs of a rift between Putin and Medvedev amid Russia's accelerating economic decline.

Some Kremlin watchers speculate that Medvedev could soon take the fall for Putin for Russia's economic underperformance.

They fear that this would then lead to an even more rapid return to the hardline political and economic policies that Russia adopted on Putin's first rise to the presidency in 2000.

Putin on Thursday hinted that if government members wanted to criticize official policy, they should first quit and become analysts or advisers, such as former finance minister Alexei Kudrin.

"If someone disagrees with something, they do what Kudrin once did -- he made a move over to the expert community," Putin said.

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