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Long-Time Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov Replaced in Cabinet Shuffle - 2004-03-09


Russia's new prime minister has replaced long-time Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov but retained the defense and finance ministers. The new cabinet was formed less than a week before Russia's presidential election.

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday approved the Cabinet appointments put forward by the new prime minister, Mikhail Fradkov. Mr. Putin stunned the public late last month, when he dismissed long-time Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his entire government. Mr. Putin said he wanted voters to know what kind of government they would be choosing when they cast their ballots in Sunday's presidential election.

In a move that surprised analysts, Mr. Putin named Russia's envoy to the United Nations, Sergei Lavrov, as the new foreign minister. He replaces Igor Ivanov, who has served in the job since the late 1990s and who will now head Russia's Security Council.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref kept their posts, in a move most analysts say is aimed at showing President Putin's commitment to continued reforms.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov also retains his post.

Viktor Khristenko, who briefly served as Russia's acting prime minister during the dissolution of the Kasyanov government, has been named to head the important Energy Ministry. He also takes on the additional portfolios of construction, industry and nuclear power - an example of the new work ethic Prime Minister Fradkov has said will be needed in the new government.

According to the Kremlin press service, President Putin and Prime Minister Fradkov reduced the number of government ministries from a high of 30 to 17. Mr. Fradkov, whose appointment was confirmed by the Duma last week, says ministers will have to work harder, and do more, with less. He has named leading economist Alexander Zhukov as his only deputy prime minister.

President Putin says he plans no additional changes in the government line-up, if he wins re-election Sunday, as is widely expected.

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