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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 14:23 GMT
Press views "cabinet of bureaucrats"
Russian press graphic

The new slimmed-down Russian cabinet, presented just days before the widely predicted re-election of President Vladimir Putin, is seen in the Russian press as a team which will strengthen his executive power even further.

At the same time, commentators say, the retention of key economic reformers will calm the money markets and reassure foreign investors about the direction the country will take.

The appointment of Mikhail Fradkov as prime minister raised eyebrows, with the Gazeta.ru news site saying he was "plucked from obscurity".

To carry out the Kremlin's instructions to the letter
Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Mr Fradkov, it says, "is widely seen as Putin's lieutenant rather than a political player in his own right".

Moskovskiy Komsomolets ponders the appointment of Mr Putin's closest comrade-in-arms, Dmitriy Kozak, to the post of head of the government administration.

"By tradition the prime minister appoints his own most trusted person to this post," the paper says.

"The fact that Fradkov was not afforded the opportunity to do this merely underlines that the new prime minister will be just a high-ranking executor, while all the key decisions will be taken in the Kremlin."

Kremlin corporation

Kommersant agrees that while Dmitriy Kozak's formal role is to "make proposals" to Mr Fradkov, "these will be proposals that the prime minister is hardly likely to be able to refuse".

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the heavyweight broadsheet controlled by businessman-in-exile Boris Berezovsky, says that now, the government is "no more than a department in the "Kremlin corporation".

The "absolutely bureaucratic cabinet", it says, would be called on to "merely to carry out the Kremlin's instructions to the letter, efficiently and with no discussion".

No constructive work will be done over the next few months
Moskovskiy Komsomolets

According to Gazeta.ru, veteran former foreign minister Igor Ivanov has been "sidelined" in the new-look cabinet. He now becomes head of the Russian Security Council, and Sergey Lavrov, the respected and long-standing Russian envoy to the United Nations Security Council, takes his place.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta thinks that by retaining his tried and trusted team of Aleksey Kudrin in the finance portfolio, German Gref in economic development and Viktor Khristenko in fuel and energy, Mr Putin "evidently thought it was better not to experiment with a sphere like the economy at the current time".

Gazeta.ru says that the retention of the finance and economy ministers was "much to the relief of investors and market analysts".

Moskovskiy Komsomolets believes President Putin has "butchered" the cabinet by cutting the number of ministers from 30 to 17.

While the new cabinet structure is now much closer to Western models, the paper says, initially the reform will only lead to "administrative chaos", and "no constructive work will be done over the next few months, or in the government as a whole".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Russia left guessing over new PM
25 Feb 04  |  Europe

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