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Russia gets new government in what Putin calls major renewal

The government was formed less than a week after Putin unveiled a sweeping shake-up of the political system, which led to the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister with his entire government.

FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 11, 2019. Picture: AFP

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin approved a new Russian government on Tuesday which he called a break with the past and included a new economy minister and first deputy prime minister, but many senior ministers stayed on.

The government was formed less than a week after Putin unveiled a sweeping shake-up of the political system, which led to the resignation of Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister with his entire government.

Putin went on to pick 53-year-old former tax chief Mikhail Mishustin, who has almost no political profile, as his new prime minister.

Putin’s wider shake-up, which envisages changing the constitution, is seen as preparing the ground for 2024, when Putin, now 67, is obliged to leave the presidency after occupying the Kremlin or the prime minister’s job continuously since 1999.

Critics have long accused Putin, a former KGB officer, of plotting to stay on in some capacity after his term ends so that he can wield power over the world’s largest nation - and one of its two biggest nuclear powers.

The new government could be intended to reboot the government’s flagging image and shift attention to Putin’s drive to lift falling real incomes and drive ahead with big national infrastructure projects which he hopes will catapult his country into a new economic league.

“The most important task is to increase the welfare of our citizens and strengthen our statehood and the position of our country in the world. All these are absolutely attainable goals,” Putin told the new government.

“We have achieved a very balanced government. We have enough people who worked in the previous government, as well as a major renewal.”

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov all kept their jobs in the government.

Putin named Andrei Belousov, his economy advisor since 2013, as Russia’s new first deputy prime minister, replacing Anton Siluanov who had held the role since May 2018.

Belousov, 60, in 2018 proposed making major metals and mining companies pay a windfall tax, sending their share prices lower, although that proposal was subsequently watered down.

Belousov made headlines last year when he confirmed his friendship with businessman Artem Avetisyan, whose legal battle with private equity fund Baring Vostok has rattled the business community.

That case, which saw the arrest last year of Baring Vostok investor Michael Calvey, a U.S. national, and other executives has hurt the investment climate and stymied economic growth, Kremlin critics say.

Putin also approved 40-year-old Maxim Reshetnikov, a former regional governor, as economy minister, replacing Maxim Oreshkin who spent just over three years in the role.

Reshetnikov has previously worked in the Moscow mayor’s office and from 2012-17 headed the Moscow government’s department for economic policy and the development of the capital.