Ambassador to U.S. Joins Putin Cabinet

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appointed Russia’s longtime ambassador to the U.S. to his Cabinet on Monday, which is likely to deepen speculation that the former president will claim a strong foreign policy role.
Putin named Yury Ushakov as a Cabinet deputy chief of staff, government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. The appointment was revealed shortly after the Kremlin said President Dmitry Medvedev had relieved Ushakov of the U.S. post to take another job.
Putin has stressed that constitutional powers of the presidency, such as setting foreign policy, would not shift to the prime minister’s office.
Peskov said Ushakov’s post, with responsibility for coordinating the foreign relations of the prime minister and Cabinet, is new. But he said the appointment did not mean that Putin was seeking unusual foreign policy muscle.
Under the Constitution, the president is the head of state and is responsible for setting policy. The prime minister heads the Cabinet, which implements policy and focuses on the economy.
Ushakov, 61, had been ambassador to the United States since 1998, serving throughout Putin’s eight-year presidency.
National media have named Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, who handles relations with the United States, and Putin’s foreign policy adviser in the Kremlin, Sergei Prikhodko, among possible candidates for the Washington job.
(AP, Reuters)