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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 16:57 GMT
Reformers stay in Putin cabinet
Alexei Kudrin and German Gref
Kudrin and Gref are key economic reformers trusted by the West
President Vladimir Putin has ditched his foreign minister but reappointed key reformers in a cabinet named days before Russia's presidential election.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, a Yeltsin-era veteran, is replaced by UN ambassador Sergei Lavrov.

Mr Putin sacked his entire government two weeks ago to get rid of Yeltsin-era Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.

The team will stay in place after Sunday's vote, which Mr Putin is expected to win by a landslide.

The president's new team
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin
Economic Development Minister German Gref
Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov
Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko

Mr Putin almost halved the number of ministries on Tuesday, slashing it from 30 to 17.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and Economic Development Minister German Gref both keep their jobs.

The two men are credited with nursing Russia's economy back to health after a 1998 crisis.

Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, a close confidant of Mr Putin from his days in the KGB, also stays on.

And Viktor Khristenko, acting prime minister since last month, becomes energy minister with further responsibility for construction, industry, arms production and nuclear power in the new cabinet.

Igor Ivanov

Putin also formalized the appointment of Rashid Nurgaliyev, formerly from the FSB intelligence agency, who had been acting interior minister.

The new cabinet is being headed by little-known technocrat Mikhail Fradkov, who was Russia's envoy to the EU before being appointed prime minister.

"This is the team which, after the election, will immediately and assuredly take up the job of strengthening the country and improving the quality of life of our citizens," Mr Putin said.

Mr Fradkov, whose appointment has been approved by the Russian parliament, has been portrayed in the Russian media as a man likely to toe the presidential line on policy issues.

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