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Cablegate: Zubkov Confirmed; Hints at Cabinet Re-Shuffle

VZCZCXRO7943
OO RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #4538/01 2571526
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 141526Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3857
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4522
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2400
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2694

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 004538

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PINR RS
SUBJECT: ZUBKOV CONFIRMED; HINTS AT CABINET RE-SHUFFLE

REF: MOSCOW 4511 (NOTAL)

MOSCOW 00004538 001.2 OF 002


-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) As expected, Prime Minister-designate Viktor Zubkov
was easily confirmed by the Duma after a perfunctory set of
questions and speeches September 14. Only the Communist
Party, and perhaps some independent deputies, voted against
him. Zubkov used the occasion to suggest that a cabinet
re-shuffle is in the works. Deputies offered the heads of
Minister of Finance Kudrin and of Economic Development Gref
for Zubkov's consideration, as well as that of the perennial
candidate for early retirement, Minister of Health and Social
Development Zurabov. Zubkov agreed only that "it is time for
personnel changes." End summary.

Easily Approved
---------------

2. (SBU) As expected, the Duma September 14 voted
overwhelmingly to approve Viktor Zubkov, President Putin's
nominee to succeed Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. The vote
was 381 to 47, with 8 deputies abstaining. Zubkov's
confirmation followed a ten-minute, lackluster speech by the
nominee, two questions from each of the five legislative
factions, and stemwinders by faction heads and a
representative of the independent deputies.

3. (SBU) Zubkov, his voice hoarse and occasionally breaking,
used his ten minutes to call, unremarkably, for stable,
continued economic and social development, the realization of
the national projects, more practical benefits from the oil
and gas bonanza, and improving the working of the defense
industry. His remarks received only polite applause from the
deputies.

Anti-Corruption Crusade
-----------------------

4. (SBU) Zubkov's answers to the ten questions posed were
short for a politician, confirmed that he is not a compelling
speaker, and demonstrated, not surprisingly, only an
occasional good grasp of the facts. Two subjects seemed to
galvanize Zubkov: corruption and a possible cabinet
re-shuffle. His reference to the former in his speech
amounted to little more than the hope that revenue generated
by "pushing the economy out of the shadows," could produce
more income for the pension fund. Later, in answering a
question, from For A Just Russia's Gennadiy Gudkov, Zubkov
waxed (for him) eloquent. He called for the passing of a law
on corruption, saying he had participated in a team which had
drafted a corruption bill. He also lobbied for the creation
of an agency, like the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, to
attack corruption. Elsewhere during his appearance, Zubkov
equated corruption in government ranks with rank
unprofessionalism, and indicated he would be on the attack
once confirmed. Still, Zubkov said, "repressive measures
alone are not sufficient," and he called on "society to fight
corruption."

Possible Cabinet Changes
------------------------

5. (SBU) Although he did not suggest an impending cabinet
re-shuffle in his prepared remarks, Zubkov did not shy away
from the subject when asked. After United Russia deputy
Andrey Isayev slammed Ministers of Housing Yakovlev, Culture
and Mass Communications Sokolev, and Health and Social
Development Zurabov, Zubkov described the strategy (a nod to
Putin) "correct," but its execution "terrible." "We will
take steps," Zubkov said. "It is time for personnel changes."
Other deputies, among them the Communist Party's Aleksey
Popov also used their time to agitate for the ouster of
ministers. In Popov's sights, in addition to Zurabov, were
Minister of Finance Kudrin and Minister of Economic
Development Gref. At one point Zubkov seemed to endorse
Rodina deputy Yuriy Savelyev's suggestion that Kudrin and
Gref were "guilty of many failures." "You are right to ask
questions (about them)," he told Savelyev.

Communists Oppose,
Zhirinovskiy Opposes Communists
-------------------------------

6. (SBU) Communist Party Chairman Zyuganov and the Rodina's
Sergey Glotov roundly criticized the current cabinet.

MOSCOW 00004538 002.2 OF 002


Zyuganov ended his attack by announcing, as expected, that
the Communists would not support Zubkov's candidacy. Glotov
reported that Rodina's small faction would abstain.
Zyuganov's opposition provoked a scathing attack from the
LDPR's Vladimir Zhirinovskiy. Vladimir Vulfovich reviewed
the Communists' criminal past in dismissing their opposition
to Zubkov. "You are saboteurs, not revolutionaries,"
Zhirinovskiy said and, in a sentence that managed to link his
dislike of the West with his hatred of the Communists,
Zhirinovskiy dismissed "1917 (as) the first Orange
Revolution."

Comment
-------

7. (SBU) As expected, foreign relations did not figure in
Zubkov's remarks except indirectly, as when he mentioned the
need for Russia to be able to compete in the international
arena. Deputies asked no questions about Zubkov's possible
presidential aspirations. The best capsule description of
the newly-minted Prime Minister of the many attempted during
the afternoon session was offered by independent deputy
Baburin, who described Zubkov, who has traveled the ranks
from the Soviet Union's collective farm system through the
Communist Party apparatus to become Prime Minister in a newly
resurgent Russia, as "an organic unity of the Soviet and
post-Soviet" experience. The weeks and months ahead will show
what role that "organic unity" is to play in the succession
jigsaw puzzle being assembled by Putin.

8. (SBU) It is difficult to know what to make of Zubkov's
comments on possible cabinet changes. The ministers
mentioned by assorted deputies have been under attack in the
Duma for some time, and Zubkov may have been merely
attempting to placate his electorate just minutes before
their vote. Some of his comments, however, suggest that a
re-shuffle of some sort is in the offing. When it comes, it
may amount to little more than the splitting of ministries
like Zurabov's, or it may be of the more sweeping nature
suggested in today's hearing.
Burns

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