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Sunday, 14 May, 2000, 01:53 GMT 02:53 UK
Putin strengthens Kremlin's power
Putin and Yeltsin
Mr Putin's decree contrasts with Boris Yeltsin's policy
By the BBC's Paul Anderson

The Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree creating a new structure to increase central Kremlin control over the country's 89 regions.

Mr Putin has created seven new "super" districts with their own presidential representatives.

The policy is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, who after the collapse of the Soviet Union gave many of Russia's regions wide autonomous powers.

President Putin's decree comes less than a week after his inauguration and looks designed to shore up the power of the central state.

Rule of law

In the light of the Chechen separatist uprising, Mr Putin sees strong, centrally-controlled state structures as crucial to the task of holding the country together and re-establishing the rule of law.


Russian soldiers in Chechnya
The Chechnya war reinforced Mr Putin's views
Things were allowed to slide, he believes, under Boris Yeltsin, who at the time of the collapse of Communism told regional leaders to take as much autonomy as they could swallow.

Many did, to the point where they created a patchwork of personal fiefdoms distant from the rule of Moscow.

That may be about to end.

Representatives

Most regions already have Kremlin representatives.

In the past their main task has been to secure the loyalty of powerful regional leaders for Boris Yeltsin, particularly at election time.

Now, it looks as if Mr Putin's group of representatives will play a much more active role in day to day affairs.

According to the decree they will help increase the effectiveness of the federal organs of power and improve compliance with the decisions taken by them.

They will report back to Moscow on ways to guarantee national security in the districts and on the political economic and social conditions they find.

There has been no response yet to the decree by Russian commentators.

But many are already deeply worried about the future of democracy in Russia under Mr Putin and will see this latest decree as even more troubling.

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See also:

07 May 00 | Media reports
Putin's inauguration speech
07 May 00 | Europe
In Pictures: Putin's big day
06 May 00 | Europe
Putin still has Moscow guessing
07 May 00 | Europe
Putin aims to unite Russia
07 May 00 | Europe
Putin takes power
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