MOSCOW -- A Kremlin-linked website leaked a video clip Wednesday of an angry President Vladimir Putin threatening to dismiss top officials, fueling speculation that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and members of his Cabinet are in danger of being fired.
The video was published hours before Mr. Medvedev was to report to Parliament, a yearly event in which he is expected to respond to criticism. Mr. Putin's press secretary called the leak "unacceptable from an ethical standpoint," and said the Kremlin might have to "stop our relationship with Life News," a tabloid-like site that published the clip. Before beginning his blistering rebuke, Mr. Putin asked that the camera be turned off.
But politics in Russia takes place amid onionskin layers of artifice, and many analysts concluded that the Kremlin had intentionally released it as a warning shot to Mr. Medvedev.
Mr. Medvedev's influence deteriorated sharply when he and Mr. Putin switched positions last year. Each heads a powerful apparatus, and each has his own priorities: Mr. Medvedev cares more about innovation and economic development, whereas Mr. Putin prioritizes the expansive social pledges that were central to his re-election bid, said Aleksei Mukhin, director of the Center for Political Information, a research group in Moscow.
"The population expects these promises to come true," Mr. Mukhin said. "This can only be implemented by the government, and the government is not in a hurry to implement them."
That tension emerged in the video clip, taken as Mr. Putin was meeting with governors and top ministers, among others, on housing issues. He criticizes their progress in fulfilling his campaign promises, such as increasing the stock of emergency housing and spots in public kindergartens. He calls the quality of their work "negligible" and, without offering specifics, instructs them to improve their performance or pack their bags.
"If we do not, it will be necessary to come out and admit it -- either I am not working effectively, or all of you work badly and you have to go," Mr. Putin says. "I call your attention to the fact that, today, I am inclined toward the second option! I think this is clear. So that no one has any illusions."
Mr. Medvedev was greeted with anemic applause at the Duma, Parliament's lower house, and began his presentation by warning that Russia faces "serious risks" because of a global economic slowdown and a drop in commodity prices. He faced particular grilling over his education minister, Dmitry Livanov.
Communist Party leader Gennadi Zyuganov said conditions in Russia were deteriorating and that a new Cabinet should be put in place. "We must warn society that, should the current social and economic course be continued, Russia will face a collapse," he said.
Even Vladimir Vasiliev, a member of Mr. Medvedev's party, United Russia, said he hoped that ministers would take a cue from members of Parliament who have stepped down voluntarily recently amid corruption cases. "We hope that in the government there will be people who will resign, understanding that they are not equal to the position they occupy," he said.
Mr. Medvedev defended Mr. Livanov, noting that "a minister who is liked by everyone simply is not performing his professional duties."
"I'll just say one thing: A minister is not a ruble, something that pleases everyone," he said. "Moreover, there are a whole lot of positions in the government that could be considered 'firing squad' positions. Among them are the responsibilities of the education and health ministers."
After Mr. Medvedev finished speaking, one lawmaker, Nikolai Levichev, of the party A Just Russia, warned that, if Russia entered a recession in the fall, "we will simply be obliged to raise the question of confidence in the government."