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Putin makes sweeping changes to power structures

: Reuters

: Gazeta.ru  : Reuters

Vladimir Putin has reinforced the powers of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, by abolishing two other power-wielding agencies. The former heads of FAPSI, the body in charge of governmental communications and information, and the Federal Border Guard Service, have received new posts. At the same time, the only woman in the Cabinet, Deputy Prime Minister for Social Affairs Valentina Matviyenko, was relieved of her duties to take over as the presidents envoy to the North-West Federal District.

Vladimir Putin announced his decision on Matviyenko at a meeting with the government members in the Kremlin on Tuesday. Yet, this was not the only surprise that he had prepared for the Cabinet on the first working day following a 3-day break to mark International Womans Day.

The head of state also reported that his presidential plenipotentiary to the North-West Federal District General Viktor Cherkessov had been appointed the head of the newly established state committee for combating the illicit drug trade. Furthermore, by his decree Vladimir Putin has abolished the Federal Tax Police Service and the Federal Agency for Governmental Communication and Information (FAPSI).

The former head of the Federal Tax Police Service Mikhail Fradkov has been appointed plenipotentiary representative to the European Community. The Tax Police Service that he headed will be abolished and its functions will be taken over by the Interior Ministry. The former chief of the Federal Border Guard Service Konstantin Totsky has become Russias envoy to NATO, and the Border Guard Service will be placed under the supervision of the first deputy director of the FSB Vladimir Pronichev.

Also on Tuesday Putin appointed the ex-director of FAPSI Viktor Matyukhin the first deputy defence minister at the head of a newly established state committee under the Defence Ministry, which will be in charge of state defence. FAPSIs functions will be divided between the Defence Ministry and the Federal Security Service.

Rumours of a possible reshuffle in the upper echelons of the federal law-enforcement agencies emerged last week after reports leaked into the media of a new power-wielding agency that would shortly appear in Russia. That new agency, namely, the Federal Investigation Service (FSR), according to sources in the Interior Ministry, would be analogous to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, and would be established on the basis of the Interior Ministrys Investigative Committee, the Main Directorate for Criminal Investigation, as well as the Interior Ministrys directorates for combating organized crime and economic crimes.

Some media outlets, citing their sources close to the Interior Ministry and the presidential envoy Viktor Cherkessov, surmised that the 52-year-old general, who is, incidentally, Vladimir Putins close friend the two even studied together at Leningrad State University would become the head of the new agency.

Those rumours concerning Cherkessovs political career have proved partially true. On Friday Cherkessovs office confirmed that he was leaving the post as the president's plenipotentiary representative in the North-West Federal District. Interfax reported on Friday, citing ''reliable sources'', that Cherkesov might become head of a new federal department, which will be involved in the task of combating drug trafficking in Russia. The department would probably be based on the already existing agencies of the Interior Ministry and other law-enforcement bodies.

Viktor Cherkessov was born on July 13, 1950 in Leningrad. In 1975 he graduated from the Leningrad State University, where he studied law. After graduating he worked at the KGB directorate for Leningrad. In 1984 he was awarded the Order of the Red Star. Four years later he became the head of the investigative department of the KGB directorate for Leningrad.

In 1992 Cherkessov was appointed to a post in the directorate of the State Security Ministry of the USSR for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. In August 1998 he became the first deputy director of the FSB, headed at that time by Vladimir Putin. In 2000 Cherkessov worked at the election headquarters of Vladimir Putin and in May 2000, after Putin divided the country into seven federal districts and established the institute of presidential representatives, Cherkessov became his envoy to the North-West Federal District.

On March 11 Cherkessov was appointed the head of the state committee for countering the illegal trade of drugs and psychotropic substances.

General Cherkessov is married and has two daughters.

11 16:44


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