MOSCOW Prime Minister Vladimir Putin split the duties of ousted Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin among two officials on Tuesday and called on ministers to show discipline until a new government was formed.
Putin named Anton Siluanov, a low-profile bureaucrat who was Kudrin's deputy, as acting Finance Minister and said First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov would take over Kudrin's duties as deputy prime minister, overseeing the government's financial issues.
Explaining his choice of Siluanov, Putin told a government meeting: "He is a good specialist, and his candidacy was obviously agreed with (President) Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev. This is our joint decision."
Putin, who intends to return to the presidency in an election in March, said on Saturday he will appoint Medvedev as prime minister. Kudrin said he did not see a place for himself in the new government, prompting Medvedev to have him ousted.
Putin is facing mounting criticism that many others in his government were more worthy of Kudrin's fate than the former finance minister. He asked his ministers to show restraint ahead of December's parliamentary elections and the March vote.
"I ask you all to perform your duties until the moment when the new government is formed, to show discipline and responsibility," Putin told his first government meeting since he publicly declared his presidential ambitions.
Shuvalov, 44, headed the government's anti-crisis commission at the height of the 2008-09 financial crisis, managing the state bailout of struggling enterprises. He is also an ombudsman for foreign investors.
Shuvalov will have the overall responsibility of running the Finance Ministry. The day-to-day operations will be carried out by Siluanov who until now oversaw the budgets of Russia's 83 regions.
Kudrin has consolidated enormous power at the Finance Ministry, with the State Treasury and Federal Tax Service reporting to the minister. He also sat on the National Banking Council, a body which oversees the central bank's operations.
Shuvalov, a Putin loyalist and former lawyer lacking an economic education, will be regarded as an outsider in a ministry staffed with Kudrin's allies.
Neither Shuvalov nor Siluanov have a track record of publicly contradicting their superiors.
The decision to pick Siluanov, who lacks the international clout of his predecessor, could be linked to President Dmitry Medvedev's drive to decentralise the country's fiscal system, giving more financial autonomy to the regions.
Siluanov started his career at the Soviet Finance Ministry in 1985 and has served as Deputy Finance Minister since 2005, working under Kudrin and managing the federal budget subsidies for the regions.
Most analysts see Siluanov as an interim figure put in place until Medvedev steps down as president in March 2012.
(Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya, Writing by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Robert Woodward)