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Kudrin joins boardroom exodus

Alexei KudrinFinance Minister Alexei Kudrin has pledged to quit as chairman of banking giant VTB and diamond monopolist Alrosa, becoming the fifth minister in Vladimir Putin's cabinet to comply with Dmitry Medvedev's orders that ministers get out of company boardrooms.

"Right next week, as soon as I return, I will get out of VTB and Alrosa," Kudrin, who was in Washington for an IMF meeting, was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying on Friday. "I will arrive and file my [resignation request]."

Prime Minister Putin's powerful deputy Igor Sechin said he would leave state-owned oil giant Rosneft last week.

Meanwhile, Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina and presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich followed suit, withdrawing their candidacies as board directors at state-owned Sberbank. Earlier, Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko promised to give up his post as chairman of Rosnano.

The shuffle comes after President Medvedev's March 30 orders giving ministers until July 1 to leave their posts at state companies as part of an effort to increase transparency and attract investors to the Russian economy.

But the moves have also raised questions about a possible power play between the respective camps of Putin and Medvedev ­ and some are questioning whether these reforms will go deep enough to actually impact transparency.

While Medvedev's dramatic orders were interpreted as a challenge to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin by some Western experts, other analysts in Moscow say his proposals are actually in line with plans by both Medvedev and Putin to reform the sector that have been in the works for years.

"Medvedev and Putin have worked together for 12 to 15 years.

A power struggle is a little dramatic to describe what's going on here; it's just a major shift in politics," says Roland Nash, chief investment strategist at Verno Capital, told The Moscow News. "Anything that increases transparency and separates policy from government would help improve the government's ongoing efficiency campaign."

But there were also questions about whether the moves would actually make the corporations more independent from the government.

And while Sechin intended to set a good example for other ministers by promptly complying with the notice to quit his Rosneft post, there was a clear indication last week that the ministers would retain their influence over state companies.

Sechin, for instance, would not just maintain control over Rosneft but strengthen it, the CEO of Rosneft said Friday

"Igor [Sechin] oversees the energy sector. We are a company with a government share and that is directly subordinate to our government through directives and other administrative levers," RIA Novosti quoted Rosneft president Eduard Khudainatov as saying last week. "We remain under the daily control of Igor Ivanovich [Sechin]."

Indeed, the formal departure of influential ministers such as Sechin and Kudrin will do little to change the power balance between the Kremlin and the government, analysts say.

"This is not a challenge to Putin, the decision was agreed," independent political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky told The Moscow News.

"It will not change their control because the nature of control over state companies has always been informal to start with," since Sechin's connections play a crucial role in Rosneft's business.

Ministers will be replaced by directors loyal to the government, so the ministers' informal control will remain, said Belkovsky.

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