The Russian parliament has overwhelmingly backed President Vladimir Putin's surprise choice for prime minister.

The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, gave its approval to Mikhail Mishustin, a 53-year-old with almost no political profile, endorsing his nomination with 383 votes of 424 cast.

Nobody voted against him; there were 41 abstentions.

Mr Mishustin, who has headed the country's tax service and played ice hockey with Mr Putin, said he would name his cabinet in the near future.

Mr Putin signed a decree appointing him as prime minister soon afterwards.

His elevation is part of a sweeping shake-up of the political system announced by Mr Putin yesterday, which led to the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister along with his government.

The changes are widely seen as giving Mr Putin scope to extend his grip on power once he leaves the presidency in 2024. The 63-year-old has dominated Russian politics, as president or as prime minister, for two decades.

The sudden and radical overhaul cements Mr Putin's control of the transition process and is seen by some as an attempt to reduce intra-clan infighting between now and 2024.

The abrupt departure of Mr Medvedev's government also allows the president to show he is responding to public discontent after years of belt-tightening and an unpopular pension age hike.


Critics have long accused Mr Putin, a former KGB officer, of plotting to stay on in some capacity after his term ends to continue to wield power over the world's largest nation, which is also one of its two leading nuclear powers.

The constitutional reform proposals, which he set out yesterday and suggested should be put to a referendum, would give him the option of taking an enhanced role as prime minister after 2024 or a new role as head of the State Council, an official body he said he was keen to build up.

Mr Putin held a meeting today with a working group he set up to consider his proposals. He gave it around a month to finish its work, Russian news agencies reported.