DATE=5/18/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA MINISTERS (L) NUMBER=2-262528 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: President Vladimir Putin has reappointed Russia's foreign and defense ministers, signaling his intention to continue current government policies. But as V-O-A's Peter Heinlein reports from Moscow, Mr. Putin also is pushing ahead with radical plans to restrict the powers of Russia's regional leaders. TEXT: President Putin signed a decree retaining Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev. In what observers described as a cautious move aimed at maintaining stability, the Russian leader also re-appointed Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and the head of the F-S-B internal security agency, Nikolai Patrushev. There were no surprises on the list, which includes several other of Mr. Putin's close political allies. Among them is the newly-appointed finance minister and deputy prime minister, Alexei Kudrin. The two served together as deputy mayors in St. Petersburg. Mr. Kudrin's most recent job was deputy to then Finance Minister, now Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. /// OPT /// In announcing the appointments, Prime Minister Kasyanov told reporters the entire cabinet should be in place within a few days. /// KASYANOV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "We will not wait too long, and by the beginning of next week at the latest, the entire lineup will be announced." He said there will be some changes, including cutting the number of ministries from 30 to 24. /// END OPT /// At the same time, however, President Putin is forging ahead with a radical plan to rein in the power of often-rebellious regional bosses. In a dramatic televised speech, he said he would ask that regional governors be dropped from membership in the upper house of parliament, and replaced with full-time appointed legislators. /// PUTIN ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says "regional leaders should concentrate on the problems of their territories. That is what they are elected for." Mr. Putin said the upper house of parliament should be made up of full-time professional legislators. Reaction to the controversial plan has been mixed. The state-run television channels carried a host of generally supportive comments. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called the changes necessary. /// OPT /// /// ZYUGANOV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "Russia's history shows strong central authority is a must. No reform is possible without it." /// END OPT /// But many regional leaders were furious at the proposals, which will strip them of much of their power, as well as their immunity from prosecution. /// OPT /// Ruslan Aushev, president of the southern republic of Ingushetia, bordering Chechnya, called the plan "an attempt to return to the dubious practices of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee." /// END OPT /// Aman Tuleyev, the governor of the Siberian Kemerovo province and a former presidential candidate, said the plan is aimed at punishing regional leaders, whose independence has often been inconvenient to the Kremlin. /// TULEYEV ACT - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "If a governor is stealing or violates the law, there should be a lever to remove him." But he warned the proposal could turn into a tool of political reprisal, noting that some federal laws are, in his words, "so stupid that obeying them would harm people." The proposals must be approved by the lower house, the Duma, to become law. At least one governor predicted tough opposition to the measures, but the speakers of both houses have already expressed support, and many members of the Duma, which is largely loyal to Mr. Putin, are quoted as saying the measures could pass easily. (Signed) NEB/PFH/JWH/ENE/gm 18-May-2000 13:44 PM EDT (18-May-2000 1744 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .