MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - A website leaked a video on Wednesday showing President Vladimir Putin apparently criticizing senior officials at a meeting with ministers and governors the previous day, just hours before Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev addressed the Russian parliament.
The video of the meeting on housing issues, published by Russia's Life News website, shows Putin asking reporters to switch off their cameras, after which he began criticizing officials who are off camera.
Both ministers and governors were present, including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, Economic Development Minister Andrei Belousov, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunyayev.
“The quality of the work is worthless, everything is being done superficially,” Putin said in the video. “If we don’t do this, we will 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 added.
An official video on the Kremlin website shows the ministers and governors sitting at a round table, making it hard to see who Putin was addressing directly.
Siluanov claimed Putin was criticizing regional governors, but added the ministries "should think thoroughly about the president's words," Prime news agency reported.
The video appeared earlier in the same day Medvedev reported to the State Duma, prompting speculation in the Russian media that it was released on purpose as part of preparations by Putin to sack the cabinet. Text accompanying the Life News video suggested Putin was threatening to sack the government.
Speculation in the Russian media about possible cabinet dismissals have been mounting since Medvedev traded the presidency for the premiership with Putin in May 2012.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed those rumors on Wednesday, claiming Putin was only addressing the governors at the meeting, not ministers.
“The essence of what the president said is somewhat distorted,” Peskov told RIA Novosti. “The talk was primarily with the heads of the regions, not with the cabinet of ministers,” he said. Peskov also questioned the ethical basis of the video because it had been filmed secretly.
Peskov also said later on Wednesday that Putin liked Prime Minister Medvedev's Duma address.
Life News CEO Ashot Gabrelyanov tweeted that the site's journalists are now being kicked out of the Kremlin’s press pool.
In an interview with Russian News Service radio, Gabrelyanov insisted the video was authentic and that Putin was referring to the ministers, not governors.