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    MOSCOW, February 14, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent Marianna Belenkaya) - The dismissal of the Cabinet has, apparently, been designed as part of the president's re-election campaign, Nikolai Petrov, a member of the science council of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said in a RIA Novosti interview. The campaign has lost some of its energy, with all major presidential hopefuls beginning to signal the intention to withdraw from the race. These have, probably, accelerated the dismissal of the Cabinet, said Mr Petrov.

    He said this event would add some vigour to the campaign.

    The 2004 elections will show who will make up the president's entourage, rather than who will be Russian president, according to Mr Petrov.

    The Cabinet dismissal is designed to secure voters' support for the president and, above all, for his team and action plan, said the expert. By casting votes for Vladimir Putin voters will signal support for his new team. This will consolidate a new Cabinet's position and legalise President Putin's strategy for another term of office.

    This is why Mr Nikolayev believes that the new premier will be named before the March 14 presidential elections, although there is little time left for the State Duma, parliament's lower house, to approve the candidature.

    Anyway, new premier and cabinet ministers will personify the strategy for President Putin's second term and his system of priorities. "We are likely to see an updated version of the Kasyanov-led Cabinet. A new Cabinet will retain a strong, reform oriented economic bloc, although new players may appear in it, while the key portfolios are likely to be distributed among the president's closest team-mates," suggested Mr Nikolayev.

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