Putin Offloads Tasks to Save 'Precious Time'

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin delegated part of his government's day-to-day tasks, freeing him to concentrate on major affairs of state.

Putin on Wednesday met his handpicked successor, President Dmitry Medvedev, to discuss the changes to the government's work, the Kremlin said on its web site.

Under the new decision-making structure, approved by lawmakers earlier this month and signed into law by Medvedev on Wednesday, more than 400 responsibilities have been transferred from the government to lower-level federal structures, including individual ministries.

"This is to make the executive branch of the Russian state more effective and less bureaucratic," said an official at the prime minister's office.

"If unimportant tasks have to be resolved by the government, this takes up precious time,'' he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with official policy.

The government gave up powers in areas including federal and local administration, education, science, health care, housing, agriculture, pensions, social policy and culture, according to a Kremlin statement.

Since handing over the presidency to Medvedev, Putin has broken the tradition in Russian politics of keeping all power in the Kremlin.

Like other foreign leaders who now visit Moscow, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday saw both men. Putin in May met French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, and next month he will hold talks with U.S. President George W. Bush in China.