MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday announced a new government line-up.
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a key government liberal, won the additional post of deputy prime minister. Another government liberal, Economy Minister German Gref, lost his job.
Putin has set the government of new Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov the task of maintaining his course ahead of and after presidential polls in March.
Putin allies and first deputy prime ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev, as well as deputy prime ministers Alexander Zhukov and Sergei Naryshkin, kept their jobs.
Dmitry Kozak, another close ally of Putin, replaced Vladimir Yakovlev as regional development minister. Kozak was previously the president’s envoy in the North Caucasus region.
Following is initial reaction from analysts:
“I view the appointments positively. The president has no habit of abruptly changing course. His decisions were aimed at maintaining macroeconomic stability.”
TIM ASH, EMERGING MARKETS ECONOMIST AT BEAR STEARNS, LONDON:
“The market will be relieved that Kudrin stays. You’re going into an election period and he’s a steady pair of hands in a key ministry.
“Kozak is interesting — he’s close to Putin and he’s one to look out for. Putin’s got enough potential contenders to be going on with now in that cabinet.
“There was a time when Gref was a bit more of a contrarian voice in the cabinet, but Kudrin has taken on that role now. It (Gref’s departure) might have mattered a year ago, but not so much now.”
“There are many strong figures (in the government) including the reinforced Kudrin, Zhukov, Medvedev, Ivanov and Dmitry Kozak. This is a powerful cabinet.
“It might be something more than a transitional government because Putin threw into action his last reinforcements. Maybe it will work beyond 2008.”
“Putin wants to keep his options open as long as possible. Now we have at least four or five (potential presidential) candidates — Zubkov, Kudrin is a dark horse and Kozak is someone who has been there or thereabouts for years.
“If you believe that Zubkov is there to guarantee stability, that does open the possibility of having a more young and dynamic president. Kozak, Medvedev and Kudrin would fit into that. And then there’s Ivanov.
“Gref out is a slight disappointment but has been rumoured for some time. He has been an anchor of economic policy for four or five years but was said to be looking to leave.
“It’s very good to have Kudrin in. Since the reforms stopped in 2003, perhaps he is the main success of the government in maintaining quite remarkable financial stability in the face of very high oil prices.”