Russian President Vladimir Putin today removed his long-time chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, from his post. The demotion of one of Putin’s closest allies – who had been at the president’s side since their days in the Soviet-era KGB and became one of Russia’s most powerful men – comes after a string of government reshuffles. Ivanov is the highest-ranking Putin ally impacted by the changes, and his departure also comes at a time when there are reports that another Putin ally, Rosneft chief Igor Sechin, may be falling into disfavor as well.

Putin’s latest actions signal that the Russian leader is moving aggressively to rebalance the factions of Russia’s security and economic elites and consolidate power further. He is doing so at a time when internal economic pressures in Russia are growing and just as the Kremlin is also boosting tensions in Ukraine and attempting to force the West into a negotiated settlement. Putin’s dramatic moves, in Russia and externally, indicate that he is sensing threats to his interests and immediate opportunities to boost his position.