INTERNATIONAL

Putin reshuffles officials

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has promoted Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov to Deputy Prime Minister and replaced his Kremlin chief-of-staff in a major power reshuffle designed to strengthen the Government.

The Russian leader said in televised remarks on Monday that Mr. Ivanov was being given the extra job to give him added clout to upgrade the armed forces which is hampered by "a lack of coordination among different ministries and agencies." Mr. Putin has also appointed head of the presidential administration Dmitry Medvedev First Deputy Prime Minister to look after the new national programmes in the social sphere adopted earlier this year.

Both Mr. Ivanov and Mr. Medvedev are considered top candidates to succeed Mr. Putin as President when he steps down in 2008.

The new Kremlin chief of staff will be Sergei Sobyanin, currently governor of energy-rich Tyumen region in western Siberia.

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