Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday dismissed longtime ally Sergei Ivanov from his post as head of the presidential staff.
Putin promoted the previous deputy head of the presidential staff, Anton Vaino, to replace Ivanov, the Kremlin said in a statement on its website. Ivanov has been demoted to an envoy position in charge of environmental and transportation issues.
Ivanov, a reputed friend and former colleague of Putin during their time in the Soviet KGB, was head of the presidential staff for four years. He also previously served as defence minister for six years and later as a deputy prime minister.
The news came as a surprise in Moscow.
"I think it's either health issues [or] retirement, or Putin's determination to demote the 'old guard' and recruit younger professionals, or both," political analyst Mikhail Troitskiy told dpa.
Troitskiy even speculated that Putin may want "to balance another major decision, such as the sacking of the prime minister, though unlikely."
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has come under fire recently for comments about the government not having enough money to improve notoriously meagre pensions for the elderly.