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Putin Replaces Russian Defense Minister, Chechen President

Russian President Vladimir Putin has promoted Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to the job of First Deputy Prime Minister, putting him on an equal level with Dmitri Medvedev.

The two are seen as the main contenders for next year's presidential election, vying to replace Mr. Putin, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

Mr. Putin said on Russian television Thursday he is giving Ivanov more responsibilities, including coordinating part of the civilian economy. He said Ivanov had successfully carried out his defense ministry duties, but said it is impossible for one man to do two jobs.

The head of the Russian tax agency, Anatoly Serdyukov, was named the new defense minister.

Also Thursday, Mr. Putin replaced Chechen president Alu Alkhanov with regional Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov.

The Kremlin says Mr. Alkhanov, who asked to be replaced, has been named deputy justice minister.

Mr. Kadyrov, the son of assassinated Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, has denied allegations of involvement in numerous human rights abuses, including civilian kidnappings. Russian troops have been fighting Muslim separatists in Chechnya for much of the past decade.

Some information for this report provided by AP, Reuters and AFP.