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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Makes Sweeping Cabinet Changes

President 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.

He also said the shakeup is linked with the changing situation in and around breakaway Chechnya, where car bombs 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.

However, the move was likely to strengthen the role of the security forces in determining government 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.

Those two 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 body to 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.