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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Real End of the Yeltsin Era?

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday launched his first major salvo against the entrenched Yeltsinites he inherited a year ago, but he did so in a way that preserved the stability for which he has been acclaimed.

By radically reshuffling his security team while leaving his economic team untouched, Putin managed to avoid entirely upsetting the delicate balance of power that exists between the Kremlin's various clans of influence.

Intriguingly, however, the dramatic move comes just two days after Putin's first presidential anniversary. Intriguing because it appears to confirm a rumor that has persisted in the Russian media since his election: that he cut a deal with Boris Yeltsin in which he promised to give Yeltsin's cadre one year before he cleaned house.

But while Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, Interior Minsiter Vladimir Rushailo and Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov are gone, two other top holdovers from the Yeltsin regime remain — presidential Chief of Staff Alexander Voloshin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who many thought would be the first to go.

Putin himself, in a national television address announcing the new lineup, added to the intrigue when he said — with his trademark shy smile — that more changes were coming that would be certain to "attract the public's attention."

It was not clear whether the remark pertained to more firings, or to the appointment of Lyubov Kudelina as deputy defense minister, the highest rank ever achieved by a woman in that traditionally exclusively male ministry.

"Putin has matured to the point that he's ready to make major changes and he has chosen the optimal route," said Andrei Ryabov, a politcal analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center.

The Interior Ministry and the Tax Police, whose former heads Vladimir Rushailo and Vyacheslav Soltaganov were seen as part of Yeltsin's "family," are now firmly under Putin's personal control, Ryabov said, as is the Defense Ministry, which will now be run by Putin's personal friend Sergei Ivanov and his team of deputies.

At the same time, the Security Council, whose role under Ivanov had grown to the degree that it was seen as a "parallel Cabinet," is now relegated to its formal position of an advisory body.

"Putin has strengthened the security block but prevented the security officials from forming a separate center of political influence [in the security council]," Ryabov said. This idea fits with the "demilitarization of public life" that Putin said was the main theme of the change.

Wednesday's changes also streamline the power system by removing the Security Council, which is now charged with the North Caucasus quagmire, from the list of the three centers of power, said Sergei Markov, an analyst with the pro-Kremlin web site

Ivanov, who has so far worked on projects ranging from reforming the natural monopolies to the development of foreign policy, was widely rumored to become the next prime minister. Now his time will be consumed by implementing his main task — reforming the country's huge military apparatus.

"There used to be three governments: the economic government, the political government and the security government," Markov said, referring to Kasyanov's White House, Voloshin's presidential administration and Ivanov's Security Council. "Now, there are two."

Along with bringing civilian officials and even one woman into the security ministries, the streamlining constitutes what Markov calls the "Europeanization" of Russian government, which he bills as the essence of Putin's policy.

And with new teams at the corruption-ridden Interior and Defense Ministries, Putin has shown a willingness to pursue the law and order component of his policy, said Yuri Korgunyuk, an analyst the Indem political research group.

"Without bringing order into the agencies that are supposed to bring order to the country, it makes no sense to talk about law and order," Korgunyuk said. Putin's recent efforts to jump-start judicial reform are also presented as an effort to create the legal foundation for democracy and market economy — something that has been missing in the "privatized" government of Boris Yeltsin's decade, he said.

None of the analysts polled thought it was clear which of the three groups considered to have influence on Putin — Yeltsin's "family," the security complex or liberal economists — emerged as winners or losers in Wednesday's reshuffle.

Nor would they predict what the future holds for Kasyanov or Voloshin.

"Maybe it's the prelude to the reform of the Cabinet and the Presidential Administration," Ryabov said. "Or maybe it was a compromise with Voloshin and Kasyanov, which will keep them in place. Which of the two versions is true, I wouldn't dare to say."