Entire Russian government resigns
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has announced that the government is resigning. The statement came shortly after President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual state-of-the-nation address and announced a series of constitutional reforms.
Mr Putin quickly nominated Mikhail Mishustin - the long-serving head of Russia's tax service and seen as a technocrat - to form a new government. Politicians were due to meet tomorrow to begin reviewing his candidacy.
Russian government sources told the BBC that ministers did not know about the government's resignation ahead of the announcement.
"It was a complete surprise," one source said.
In his state-of-the-nation address, Mr Putin suggested amending the constitution to allow politicians to name prime ministers and Cabinet members.
The authority to make those appointments currently belongs to Russia's president.
"It will increase the role of parliament and parliamentary parties, powers and independence of the prime minister and all Cabinet members," Mr Putin told an audience of top officials and politicians.
At the same time, Mr Putin argued that Russia would not remain stable if it were governed under a parliamentary system.
The president should retain the right to dismiss the prime minister and Cabinet ministers, to name top defence and security officials, and to be in charge of the Russian military and law enforcement agencies, he said.
Mr Putin emphasised that constitutional changes must be put to a nationwide vote. They would be the first significant changes to the constitution since it was adopted in 1993.
Re-elected to a six-year term in 2018, Mr Putin has seen his approval ratings fall to some of their lowest levels, though still far above those of most Western leaders.
Recent polls put Mr Putin's rating at 68-70 per cent, up a few points from a year ago, but down from a high of more than 80 per cent at the time of his last election.
Hit by Western sanctions over the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russia's economy has stagnated and most Russians have seen their disposable income fall.
Political analyst Kirill Rogov said that Mr Putin's proposals indicate his intention to remain in charge while redistributing powers between various branches of government.
"Such a model resembling the Chinese one would allow Putin to stay at the helm indefinitely while encouraging rivalry between potential successors," Mr Rogov said on Facebook.
The 67-year-old Mr Putin has remained at the helm for more than 20 years - longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin.
He will have to step down after his term ends under the current law, which limits the president to two consecutive terms.
"Russia has entered its period of power transition ahead of schedule," said Tatiana Stanovaya, head of the R.Politik analysis firm.
She said it appeared Mr Putin was preparing for a powerful post-presidential role as head of the State Council.Medvedev had also "become toxic", Ms Stanovaya said, and needed to make way for a new prime minister.
Alexei Navalny, the most prominent Russian opposition leader, tweeted that the president's speech signalled Mr Putin's desire to continue calling the shots after his term ends.
"The only goal of Putin and his regime is to stay in charge for life, having the entire country as his personal asset and seizing its riches for himself and his friends," Mr Navalny alleged.
In a televised meeting with the Russian president, Mr Medvedev said the proposals would make significant changes to the country's balance of power and so "the government in its current form has resigned".
"We should provide the president of our country with the possibility to take all the necessary measures" to carry out the changes, Mr Medvedev said. "All further decisions will be taken by the president."
Mr Putin asked Mr Medvedev, his longtime ally, to continue as head of government until a new government has been appointed.
"I want to thank you for everything that has been done, to express satisfaction with the results that have been achieved," Mr Putin said. "Not everything worked out, but everything never works out."
He also proposed creating the post of deputy head of the Security Council, suggesting that Medvedev take on the position.
Before announcing the resignation of the cabinet, Mr Medvedev met with Mr Putin to discuss his state-of-the-nation address, which took place earlier on Wednesday, the Kremlin's press office said.
Mr Medvedev has served as Russia's prime minister since 2012. He spent four years before that as president in 2008-2012.