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Putin sacks old yeltsin cabinet

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FRONT PAGE - FIRST SECTION: Putin sacks cabinet 18 days before election
By Andrew Jack in Moscow
Financial Times; Feb 25, 2004

Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, sacked his cabinet yesterday, just 18 days before the presidential election, paving the way for the nomination of a government more firmly under his control.

Mr Putin dismissed Mikhail Kasyanov, the prime minister, saying that while the performance of the outgoing government had been largely "satisfactory" he wanted to lay out his position "on the course of development of the country after March 14" - the election date.

The nomination of a new government before the election will give Mr Putin a clear mandate for reform. It will also strengthen his political grip, following the success of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party in December's elections.

Mr Kasyanov's dismissal appeared to draw a line under the past. He was the last senior government official closely linked to Boris Yeltsin, the former president, and to several politically influential but unpopular business "oligarchs". The outgoing prime minister openly disagreed with Mr Putin several times, criticising the criminal investigations into the owners of Yukos, the oil company, and stalling on reform of the civil service.

His removal invigorated the election, during which Mr Putin has refused to participate in any debates or traditional campaigning. His six rivals have struggled to gain attention in the state-controlled media or to raise their standing in the polls beyond single digits, while Mr Putin has enjoyed approval ratings of up to 80 per cent.

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