Putin keeps powerful Kremlin aides
There are many familiar faces in the new cabinet of Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin, yet his appointment of two former Kremlin aides
suggests he wants to strengthen his powers at the expense of the new
There has been a generally good reception of the new government from
business and diplomatic circles. Igor Sechin was the deputy chief of
Vladimir Putin's presidential administration.
He was an enforcer, who also chaired Russia's biggest state oil
company, Rosneft, at the time when it controversially absorbed the Yukos
empire. Yukos was broken up and its billionaire boss Mikhail
Mr Sechin has been seen as something of a grey cardinal, opposed to
the eventual nomination of Dmitry Medvedev as former President Putin's
chosen successor. His new post - deputy prime minister - is a minor
Along with the removal of two of Mr Putin's closest allies - the
former justice minister, and the head of the domestic security service -
Mr Sechin's move suggests Mr Putin may be starting a process of mutual
distancing from the hardest of the hardliners.
Signs of continuity
The former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov - whose reputation is that of
a competent manager rather than a great political thinker - stays on as
a first deputy prime minister.
Much more remarkable is Igor Shuvalov, a slick, fluent
English-speaker, who advised Mr Putin on foreign economic affairs. He
has also been made a first deputy prime minister.
Elsewhere, in defence and foreign affairs, continuity seems to be the
key word. The former ministers have kept their jobs. Effectively,
however, this augurs against a softening of the hardline approach
towards the West. Changes in the security establishment are also
The new head of the presidential administration is Sergei Naryshkin,
a close confidant of Mr Putin from St Petersburg. Another sign of the St
Petersburg clan's continuing importance is the appointment of Alexander
Bortnikov - a largely unknown functionary - as head of the FSB internal