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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Makes Sweeping Cabinet Changes

Russia's Vladimir Putin on Wednesday made his most sweeping Cabinet changes since becoming president a year ago, naming his Security Council chief as Russia's first civilian defense minister.

The changes came amid a growing climate of distrust with the United States as well as signs that Russia's modest economic upswing is slowing down.

Changes in Putin's Cabinet, which is made up largely of holdovers from former President Boris Yeltsin's administration, had been expected. However, Putin did not remove Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, whose position has long been reported in doubt.

Putin replaced Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev with Security Council chief Sergei Ivanov, the first civilian defense minister in post-Soviet Russia.

Western governments had long recommended that Russia follow the practice of putting a civilian in charge of the military. However, Ivanov, a longtime KGB veteran in the Soviet era, holds the rank of general in the powerful Russian security services.

Explaining his decision, Putin told a government meeting in the Kremlin that the changes would help "demilitarize" Russia's public life.

"While conducting military reform it's necessary to appoint a civilian to the job of defense minister," Putin said. "The time has come for personnel changes, which would be a logical conclusion of the modernization of the military structure."

Critics have accused Sergeyev of lagging on reforms of the 1.2 million-strong Defense Ministry force, which has suffered from funding shortages, dismal conditions and low morale since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Putin also said the shakeup is linked with the changing situation in and around breakaway Chechnya, after car bombs in southern Russia this weekend killed at least 23 people. Putin recently put the Federal Security Service in charge of running the military operation in Chechnya, and Ivanov's appointment was likely to strengthen that.

Ivanov, 48, who was posted to several foreign countries during his KGB career and speaks fluent English, has long been close to Putin. He is broadly considered the No. 2 figure in the Russian political establishment and has played a key role in shaping Russia's foreign and security policy.

In a surprise announcement, Putin named Boris Gryzlov, a leader of the pro-Kremlin Unity party and a newcomer to Russia's political elite, as the new interior minister, who is in charge of police and interior troops.

Ivanov's and Gryzlov's appointments mean that Putin has now placed his own loyalists in charge of two key ministries.

Ousted Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo was named chief of the Security Council, an influential advisory and policy-setting body under Putin.

The other changes included replacing embattled Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov with Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the Kurchatov Institute, the leading nuclear research center.

In an unprecedented move, Putin named a woman, former deputy finance minister Lyubov Kudelina, as deputy defense minister.