The Kremlin has chastised a tabloid website for an "outrageous" leak from Russia President Vladimir Putin's meeting with some government officials, which suggested the Russian leader may disband his cabinet.
At the Tuesday meeting to discuss the dismal state of Russia's housing, Putin spoke with several ministers and governors, before asking Kremlin pool reporters to turn off the cameras and then launching a tirade against the work of all those present.
"Either my work is not effective, or the work of all of you is not effective, and you must go," the Russian leader says in the video posted by the Life News website."Today I am leaning toward the second alternative."
Life News, a pro-Kremlin tabloid which often publishes scoops on celebrities and gruesome crimes, called its video "sensational" and headlined the story "Vladimir Putin threatens to disband the government."
The controversy unfolded as Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev went before parliament to report on the government's work over the past year.
'Outrageous and inadmissible'
As bloggers speculated whether the Kremlin knew about or encouraged the leak, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the website's actions "outrageous and inadmissible from an ethical point of view".
Life News management said they have been told to leave the Kremlin pool, a tightly-knit group of journalists who cover Putin's every public meeting and trip.
Peskov said the Kremlin "does not exclude the possibility of rethinking its relationship with this group," the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Life News, which produces a number of news websites as well as the tabloid Zhizn (Life), has gained notoriety with its crime and celebrity scoops.
But it is also known for publishing smear stories on Russia's opposition figures and even their wiretapped conversations, suggesting a close relationship with the country's security services.
"Regarding Life (News), I don't believe that this is an unsanctioned leak," tweeted Russian political journalist Oleg Kashin.
After Putin and Medvedev swapped their posts in 2012, many observers suggested that Medvedev is unlikely to serve out his term as Russia's economy slows.
However both men have vehemently denied rumours of Medvedev's imminent departure from his position.
In a countermove Medvedev defended his government's record during his speech to parliament on Wednesday.
He asked for parliament's support in a long-planned report on his government's work that lasted an hour and 45 minutes.
"We live in a dynamic, fast-developing world. It is so global and so complex that we sometimes cannot keep up with the
changes," he said, acknowledging that Russia could be dragged into recession if global commodity prices keep falling.
"On the other hand, we live in a society that offers huge opportunities. So I hope that ... Russia tomorrow will be a country that is strong and comfortable to live in." he added.