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Putin Ponders Zubkov's Proposals

President Vladimir Putin will meet with the Cabinet in the Kremlin on Monday, but he is keeping tight-lipped about whether the ministers will be from the old Cabinet or the much-anticipated new one.
Business leaders shrugged off the delay in the announcement of the new government, saying economic stability rested on Putin, not the Cabinet.
Putin said at an investment forum in Sochi on Friday that Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov had presented his proposals for the new Cabinet and that he would decide on the new government in a "very short time."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday that Zubkov had discussed his proposals with the president Tuesday and officially submitted them to Putin on Friday -- in line with the Constitution, which stipulates that the structure of a new government must be decided within seven days of the appointment of a prime minister.
He said the announcement could come as soon as Monday's meeting in the Kremlin.
"This is up to the president and is entirely his decision," Peskov said by telephone.
He would not confirm a Kremlin statement on Friday that the meeting would take place at 5 p.m., saying only that the time was subject to change.
Peskov stressed that Zubkov's proposals only related to the number of ministers, deputy ministers and fields of responsibility, but did not touch upon personnel.
"The president is going to approve the suggestions about the structure made by the prime minister, while questions about personalities are being discussed separately," he said.
He would not elaborate about whether any decisions had been made. "There is no timeline," he said.
Zubkov, a little-known technocrat selected by Putin when Mikhail Fradkov resigned Sept. 12, remained out of the public eye over the weekend. He did not attend the Sochi forum with Putin and many members of the outgoing Cabinet.
Acting Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref was unusually dismissive about the Cabinet's role. Speaking at a news conference in Sochi, he said it did not matter for the investment climate whether Russia had a new government, arguing that most power was vested in the president.
"I think that investors understand perfectly the political and economic situation in the country and see that President Putin is the key factor," he said, Interfax reported.
Peskov also brushed aside suggestions that the country might appear rudderless. "The acting government maintains the legacy and continuity for both politics and the economy, and the Sochi forum was one of the best demonstrations of that," he said.
He was echoed by billionaires Vladimir Potanin and Viktor Vekselberg, who said in Sochi that they were not worried about political uncertainty, Reuters reported. TNK-BP CEO Robert Dudley said Putin's assurances "came in the form of a very clear message that the government's policies were not going to shift, and there will be no big changes in people."
Unified Energy System chief Anatoly Chubais, meanwhile, dismissed reports that he might join the Cabinet. He told reporters in Sochi that he would remain with UES until July, when the national utility is to be reorganized.
Kommersant, citing an unidentified government official, reported Saturday that Gref's ministry was slated to lose many of its powers but that Putin had asked Gref to stay on. The report said Gref would probably stay until May, when Putin leaves office, because he did not want to be associated with the ministers who were being fired, including acting Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev.


(The Moscow Times 24.ix.07)

 
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