MOSCOW - A video of Russian President Vladimir Putin berating government ministers and regional leaders was leaked today, fueling speculation that a change in government could be coming soon.
The tabloid website LifeNews.ru released an edited clip of Putin's comments, which were made after the president instructed all cameras to be turned off. He then goes on to blast the officials for their poor performance.
"The quality of the work is worthless, everything is being done superficially," Putin says in the video, reportedly about work on his campaign promise to improve housing.
"If we don't do this, we have to admit that either I'm not working effectively, or you all are working badly and you all should leave. I want to draw your attention to the fact that today I am leaning towards the second option," he said, according to The Moscow News.
The Kremlin condemned the leak, blasting the "ethics" of recording the off the record remarks, and warning that LifeNews could lose its coverage privileges.
"The essence of what the president said is somewhat distorted," Putin's spokesman Dmitri Peskov said, suggesting the president was not threatening cabinet ministers but rather regional officials who were also present.
LifeNews, which has an uncanny knack for obtaining compromising videos from unnamed sources, threatened to release more of the video. Its editor in chief insisted the video is authentic and wrote on Twitter that, contrary to the Kremlin's claims, Putin was referring to the ministers when he made the threats.
The video came out just hours before Prime Minister Medvedev, once Putin's most trusted ally, was set to address the lower house of parliament, leading some to believe it was done intentionally to discredit him. Despite the Kremlin's fury at the leak, it did little to quell chatter that Medvedev and his government are skating on increasingly thin ice.