Ministry Abolished In Cabinet Reshuffle

President Vladimir Putin has abolished a ministry, created a new one and appointed Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov as industry, science and technology minister in a Cabinet reshuffle that political analysts said Wednesday merely confirms the actual state of affairs within the government.

Putin signed the order late Tuesday night to disband the Nationalities and Migration Ministry and dismiss its minister, Alexander Blokhin.

Another decree called for the formation of an as-yet unnamed ministry to coordinate the "implementation of national policies," Interfax reported.

Industry, Science and Technology Minister Alexander Dondukov was replaced with Klebanov, who is to retain his title as deputy prime minister.

The reshuffle at the industry ministry comes as the government takes its first steps to restructure the military-industrial complex and the aviation and space industries. Klebanov has overseen space technologies and the military industrial complex since the beginning of Putin's presidency.

"Dondukov was the superfluous man," said Konstantin Makiyenko, an arms expert with the Center for Analysis of Strategy and Technology. "His powers overlapped with Klebanov's in many ways. Plus he was an inert minister who hardly ever showed any initiative."

On top of that, Makiyenko said, Klebanov was close to the circle of bureaucrats who followed Putin from St. Petersburg, while Dondukov belonged to the ever diminishing group connected to former President Boris Yeltsin.

"This meant that he would lose his post anyway in the long run," Makiyenko added. "His inertia, of course, didn't help."

Other analysts pointed out that the widening of Klebanov's powers comes just days after he successfully finished coordinating the operation to lift the Kursk nuclear submarine from the bottom of the Barents Sea.

"It was his reward for finishing the job so successfully," said Igor Bunin, head the Center for Political Technologies.

The functions of the disbanded Nationalities and Migration Ministry are to be divided between the interior, foreign and economic development and trade ministries, Interfax said.

The Interior Ministry will take charge of migration issues -- a move many analysts agreed was a sign that the government is preparing to take a new approach toward migration in the near future.

"The government is getting accustomed to new, militarized conditions in society after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.," Bunin said. "On the eve of possible large movements of people on Russia's southern borders, migrations and migrants are not going to be treated as humanitarian but as security issues."

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov told the State Duma on Wednesday that more than 1 million foreigners are living in Russia, most of them illegally.

"We need a radical revision of our migration policy," Itar-Tass quoted him as saying, adding that the Interior Ministry believes Russia needs new migration laws.

It was unclear Wednesday how the remaining functions of the dissolved ministry would be shared between the foreign and economic development ministries. Putin is giving the government a month to decide on the redistribution of responsibilities, Interfax reported.

It was also not immediately clear what the newly formed ministry for coordinating national policies would do or who would lead it.

Bunin said federal issues, also handled by the migrations ministry, would probably now be taken over by the presidential administration and the seven presidential envoys in the federal districts.

But this, some analysts warned, could lead to the Kremlin losing sight of Russia's strategic problems, since there would be almost no official bodies left to track the development of the federation.

A once-powerful territorial management agency in the presidential administration was significantly weakened earlier this year when most of its staff was cut and a large chunk of its functions were transferred to the seven presidential envoys.

"The presidential envoys are concentrated in seven pretty artificial, separate parts, and there is no one left anymore to overlook the long-term trends and developments in the whole country," said Leonid Smirnyagin, political analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center.

Smirnyagin said the migration ministry, despite its potential importance, sealed its fate by failing to lobby for sufficient funding from the federal budget and establishing ties with the envoys.