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Putin Rebukes Top Adviser

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday stripped many of the duties of his top economic adviser — an outspoken critic who has accused the Kremlin of trying to muzzle voices of dissent and civil society in Russia.

Andrei Illarionov, who last week said the Kremlin efforts to censure the public would eventually spark mass protests, was stripped of his responsibilities as Russia's envoy to the Group of 8 industrial nations, the Kremlin said.

Another top adviser, Igor Shuvalov, was given Illarionov's duties, which typically involve heavy preparations for G-8 summit and meetings, earning the envoys the affectionate nickname "sherpas."

The Kremlin gave no reason for the shift in responsibilities.

But after the Western-leaning Viktor Yushchenko soundly won Ukraine's court-ordered presidential revote last month, Illarionov said Yushchenko's victory should help Russia lose its "imperial complex" toward former Soviet republics like Ukraine.

Illarionov has become a lone dissenter in the Kremlin, which is increasingly dominated by Putin's fellow KGB veterans. They are widely seen as a driving force behind the probe against the embattled Yukos oil giant, which has been all but crushed by a legal onslaught of back taxes and criminal charges against its owners.

Illarionov called last month's Kremlin-orchestrated auction of Yukos' main production unit the "fraud of the year" and said the government's actions "have inflicted a colossal damage to the country."

He also is a longtime critic of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which Russia ratified this fall.

Shuvalov is widely considered a more loyal adviser to Putin, and he has stoutly defended the crackdown on Yukos, warning other Russian oil companies to pay off any back taxes.

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