New appointments, which Putin made in the Russian government yesterday, do not mean that the president decided to seriously reconsider his views and preferences on the threshold of elections. Putin made the reshuffle to strengthen the structure of power which the president apparently prefers at the moment. However, Russian scientists of politics were shocked with yesterday’s news from the Kremlin.
Putin signed the decree to appoint Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov for the position of the first vice prime minister in the government. Now there are two fist PMs: Dmitry Medvedev was appointed for the position too when he left the Kremlin administration. The position of the defense minister has been taken by Anatoly Serdyukov, who previously chaired the Federal Tax Service. Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the governmental administration was appointed for the post of the vice prime minister.
Sources from the Kremlin say that Putin made the new appointments after a detailed conversation with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. When Putin was holding the press conference for Russian and foreign journalists in the Kremlin, a reporter asked the president if possible candidates for presidency were supposed to have an experience of working on high-ranking positions. “All of them already work on their positions,” Putin stated. Yesterday’s decision apparently dotted all i’s at this point.
The two central candidates for presidency – Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev - have thus been equalized in their status. The position of the defense minister was not really good for Ivanov: the minister had to make numerous excuses for incidents of hazing in the Russian army. Such activities were obviously earning him ill reputation. Now Ivanov and Medvedev take similar positions in the Russian government, which means that attempts to use army crimes to defame Ivanov as a presidential candidate will be taken to no avail.
Putin said that he decided to expand Sergei Ivanov’s responsibility in the government. “In addition to the defense complex, Mr. Ivanov will be in charge of a certain part of the civil sector of the economy,” Putin said.
The new appointments in the government may guarantee that there will be no fierce battles in Putin’s team during the election year 2008. The president trusts the two first vice prime ministers. To crown it all, Medvedev and Ivanov maintain warm and friendly relations with each other.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov