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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Will Lead Social Reforms

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree establishing a committee under his chairmanship to implement health care, housing, education and agriculture projects.

In a notable omission, however, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov was excluded from the 41-member committee -- a move that could be meant to keep the prime minister at arm's length from the Kremlin ahead of the parliamentary and presidential elections.

Putin chief of staff Dmitry Medvedev, who is also chairman of Gazprom, was named first deputy chairman, while Putin named economic aide Igor Shuvalov and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov as two other deputy chairmen.

An assortment of government officials, ministers, State Duma deputies and regional government officials round out the committee, according to the decree, which was signed Friday.

Alexei Makarkin, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, said the committee would serve as more of a public relations tool rather than a means of substantive policy implementation.

"It's meant to show that Putin cares about the public and that he's personally overseeing social programs," Makarkin said. "Anything accomplished by the committee will then be connected with Putin and his circle, not Fradkov."

Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, called the committee "another decorative move."

"From time to time, Putin just points out that he and Fradkov are different people," Pribylovsky said.

The committee, which according to the decree will convene every six months, could be used to promote a successor to Putin in the 2008 presidential election, Makarkin said.

Rumors of Medvedev as a possible successor to Putin have been circulating in Moscow political circles, and the committee could provide a forum for him to gain public exposure, Makarkin said.

"Medvedev is well-known among the political elite, but he is still a just a part of the political machine," Makarkin said. "In theory, this could help turn him into a public political figure."