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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Seen Tapping Ambassador To U.S.

Russia's ambassador to the United States is expected to be recalled to Moscow to oversee Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's foreign policy team, a government spokesman said Friday.

The recall of Yury Ushakov, a veteran diplomat, to serve as deputy to Cabinet chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin could indicate a shifting of powers from the Kremlin to the White House, political analysts said. Under the Constitution, the president is in charge of foreign policy issues.

The government spokesman had few details about the possible appointment.

"There is no such decree as of yet, but I expect one to be issued in the near future," the spokesman said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on an appointment before it was made official.

Kommersant, citing government sources, reported Friday that Ushakov would be assigned the task of coordinating the government's foreign policy, effectively snatching away an area of authority held by President Dmitry Medvedev and the Kremlin administration.

A government official, however, denied that such an appointment would have any effect on the balance of power between the Kremlin and the White House. "It is the government's task to maintain international contacts in the sphere of economics and trade," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the media.

Ushakov would organize the government's sometimes-chaotic policy on foreign relations, Kommersant said, noting, for example, that Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev sits on a joint commission with Canada, while Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov holds a commission post with Venezuela.

Ushakov would be replaced in Washington by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, Interfax reported. Kislyak has overseen Russia's relations with North and South America and is a top negotiator with Washington over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Europe, which Moscow opposes.

The news about Ushakov emerged as Putin wound up a high-profile visit to Paris, which national media described as "presidential." Among other things, Putin dined with President Nicolas Sarkozy, a rare honor for a head of government.

Political analysts said Ushakov's appointment would be logical because Putin enjoys greater authority than previous prime ministers, but they dismissed the idea that he might overstep constitutional boundaries. "Putin has gained a certain international reputation and weight during his presidency," said Timofei Bordachev, deputy editor of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine. "It would be a mistake to put this aside and wait until President Medvedev has the same reputation or weight." Bordachev said Putin and Medvedev have ample room to divide powers between them. "It is up to the president and the prime minister to decide on which legal basis they will manage their affairs," he said.

Masha Lipman, editor of the Carnegie Moscow Center's Pro and Contra Journal, said Putin would definitely expand his authority as prime minister but stop short at violating the law. "Putin has repeatedly demonstrated that he adheres to the letter [of the law], while its spirit might be compromised," she said.