Big rewards for Vladimir Putin’s loyalists

Russian president Vladimir Putin has unveiled a government dominated by loyalists, tightening his grip on the economy and national security after protests, and limiting prime minister Dmitry Medvedev’s ability to pursue market reforms.

Mr Putin, 59, opted for continuity by retaining his ally Igor Shuvalov as first deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy, while Igor Sechin will remain his energy chief in a role outside the government.

The former KGB spy consolidated his hold over the “power” ministries by naming Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev as interior minister, in a sign of trust in a man who has at times used heavy force against protesters demanding Mr Putin quit.

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Mr Putin also signalled continuity on foreign policy and military affairs by leaving foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov in place.

His appointment of Mr Kolokoltsev sent a clear message that he does not intend to bow to the protesters’ demands for more political choice and the end of a political system imposing strong central control.

“This is a man who breaks up peaceful meetings with the help of cudgels,” opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said. “This all fits into the logic of modern Putinism.”