MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev fired Russia’s longtime finance minister for insubordination Monday after the two had an icy confrontation on television that revealed the fault lines in a government where disagreements are usually kept strictly under wraps.
On Sunday, Finance Minister Aleksei L. Kudrin had openly questioned the president’s competence in economic affairs, announcing that he would quit rather than work for Medvedev, who is to become prime minister next year in a leadership swap with Vladimir V. Putin.
Kudrin was an essential player for more than a decade on the governing team that Putin initially put together while president, and his departure has called into question the viability of the new leadership arrangement. It could also deepen Russia’s economic troubles, as foreign investors believe that Kudrin’s leadership has helped avert financial instability.
The takedown of Kudrin seemed an effort by Medvedev to reassert authority after the leadership announcement appeared to reveal him as little more than a place holder for Putin, who was constitutionally barred from seeking a third consecutive term in 2008.
“No one has abolished discipline and subordination,” Medvedev told Kudrin at a televised meeting of officials in Dimitrovgrad. “If you think that you have different views on the economic agenda from the president, that is me, then you can write me a corresponding letter of resignation. You must answer, of course, here and now. Will you write the letter?”
Kudrin, looking stung, responded that he would seek the advice of Putin, who is now the prime minister, before giving an answer.
“You can seek advice from whomever you want, including from the prime minister, but while I am president, I will make such decisions,” Medvedev said. “You need to decide, and quickly.”
A few hours later, Medvedev’s press secretary announced that Kudrin had been dismissed on Putin’s recommendation. Under the constitution, the prime minister must approve such dismissals.
The news immediately sent tremors through economic circles, with some analysts predicting that Kudrin’s departure could rattle investors and damage Russia’s economic outlook.
“The resignation or forced dismissal of Finance Minister Kudrin is a real shock, and will be taken negatively by the markets,” said Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank based in Moscow.