Russian president Vladimir Putin shocked observers today by nominating a relative unknown to be the country's next prime minister, the BBC reports. After Mikhail Fradkov resigned earlier, Putin turned to Viktor Zubkov, head of the federal financial monitoring service. Putin had been expected to name first deputy PM Sergei Ivanov, a close ally and possible candidate in March's presidential election.
With Putin prohibited by law from seeking a third term, the BBC reports that Zubkov is likely intended to create a smooth path for Putin’s successor; no major candidates have yet declared their intention to run for president. The surprise nomination could indicate behind-the-scenes tension between Kremlin “clans,” who differ mostly in their hostility toward the West.