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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Borodin Ousted In Putin's Shake-Up




Moving quickly to put his own stamp on the presidential staff and the Cabinet, acting President Vladimir Putin on Monday dismissed the Kremlin's scandal-tarred property manager, Pavel Borodin, and promoted or demoted several Cabinet ministers.


Putin enhanced the authority of Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who adds the title of first deputy prime minister - the only first deputy in the Cabinet.


He also stripped Nikolai Aksyonenko of his title as first deputy prime minister, leaving him with his other title, railways minister.


And a Putin ally, Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu, got the additional title of deputy prime minister and will be one of seven ministers to hold that title, the Kremlin said. Shoigu headed the pro-Putin Unity bloc in the December parliamentary elections.


Removing Borodin was seen by political figures and analysts as an attempt by Putin to establish his own team - and to distance himself from the inner circle of unpopular predecessor Boris Yeltsin, dubbed "the family."


Another member of "the family," Yeltsin's daughter and image adviser Tatyana Dyachenko, left earlier. The demoted Aksyonenko has also been associated with "the family" in Russian news reports.


Borodin gets a consolation job, as state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union established by the watered-down union agreements between the two countries. The appointment was confirmed during a phone conversation between Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, Itar-Tass reported.


But Borodin's new post - with an institution that wields little real power - is modest compared to his old job. He had presided over the Kremlin department that provided perks to government officials and legislators - an empire of hotels, resorts, dachas, clinics and motor pools. It is an empire that's estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars - and considered influential enough for some to dub Borodin one of the "oligarchs," the politically connected businessmen who wield much of Russia's economic and political power.


During the fight over the confirmation of Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister in April 1998, Yeltsin broadly hinted to the deputies that if they saw things his way and approved Kiriyenko, Borodin would take care of them. They did, though some complained the mere offer sullied their reputations.


But Borodin became a public relations liability after Swiss and Russian prosecutors said they were investigating whether he took bribes from the Swiss firm Mabetex in return for giving the company lucrative contracts to renovate government buildings, including Yeltsin's Kremlin office. Borodin denies the charges.


No one has been charged, but news reports of the investigation damaged the Kremlin's image in the West, and some reports said Yeltsin himself and his daughters, Dyachenko and Yelena Okulova, got money from Mabetex, which the Kremlin denied.


Borodin, the former mayor of Yakutia in Siberia, had been a personal favorite of Yeltsin's and had survived an earlier attempt to remove him by appealing directly to the president. Ironically, Putin's first job in the Kremlin after leaving the St. Petersburg city administration in 1996 was as a deputy to Borodin.


In another personnel move, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko was reappointed as a deputy prime minister.


Putin downplayed the importance of the moves, calling them "temporary" but not explaining what that meant. "These are minimal changes," he said. "Functionally, they don't touch on anything." Kasyanov was promoted, he said, "because there should be a clear coordinator" in the Cabinet.


"And, naturally, that coordinator, as in all governments, should be the minister of finance, inasmuch as this is one of the key figures in the government," he said.


The reshuffle was "quite natural," said political analyst Yevgeny Volk, head of the Moscow office of the Heritage Foundation. "Putin wants to get rid of the most notorious people associated with 'the family.' These people have bad reputations in Russia and in foreign public opinion."


Kasyanov has a good reputation in the West, as shown by his successful effort to renegotiate Russia's Soviet era commercial debts to the London Club of creditors, Volk said.


Putin has retained several members of Yeltsin's inner circle, including chief of staff Alexander Voloshin and deputy chief of staff Igor Shabdurasulov.