Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned Wednesday in a move that caught ordinary Russians by surprise.

Less than three hours later, President Vladimir Putin offered the post of prime minister to Mikhail Mishustin, head of the Russian tax service.

Q: Who is Mikhail Mishustin?

A: Mishustin does not appear to have played a high-profile role in Russian politics, especially in fields dominated by Putin, such as foreign policy. The 53-year-old has held several positions in various Russian agencies related to taxes, duties and real estate. He has been in charge of the federal tax service since 2010.

 

Q: What does the shake-up mean?

A: In most countries, the resignation of a prime minister would suggest a leadership crisis. But in Russia, it might very well be the result of careful planning, with Putin at the steering wheel directing Medvedev, long considered his protegé.

 

Q: Will Medvedev disappear from Russian politics?

A: No, he is expected to stay on as the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, a powerful consultative body.

 

Q: What are Putin’s possible options after 2024?

A: If the government shake-up was indeed directed by Putin, it may suggest that Wednesday’s moves were taken to preserve his power beyond 2024, when his term is set to end — one way or another. Even though some of his critics have maintained that he may try to stay on as president regardless, others viewed Wednesday’s announcement as setting the stage for a more sophisticated transfer of power.