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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 16:18 GMT
Putin names new prime minister
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Putin has been sidelining Yeltsin-era officials
Russia's President Putin has named EU envoy Mikhail Fradkov as his new prime minister.

Mr Fradkov, a former tax police chief, is a little-known political figure.

The announcement came nearly a week after Mr Putin sacked his entire cabinet in order to remove PM Mikhail Kasyanov, seen as too close to Russia's oligarchs and the Boris Yeltsin era.

Mr Putin is expected to win a landslide victory in presidential elections being held on 14 March.

Mr Fradkov's appointment must be endorsed by the Russian parliament, but the majority United Russia Party was expected to back Mr Putin's choice.

Mikhail Fradkov

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Moscow says most Kremlin watchers see him as a civil servant above all - a technocrat prime minister who will play a quiet second fiddle to the president.

Mr Fradkov, 53, had not been among the likely candidates mentioned by analysts.

When Mr Putin announced his decision in a televised address, he said the nominees had to be a "highly professional, orderly person with good experience of state activity".

The president added that Mr Fradkov met all these requirements.

The new prime minister was a foreign trade official during the Soviet era and served twice as trade minister in the 1990s.

He became Russia's representative at the European Union last March and until now has been based in Brussels.

EU spokesman Reijo Kemppinen welcomed the nomination as a "positive signal of the importance that Russia attaches to its relations with the European Union".

Last week Mr Putin said his decision to sack the cabinet had been motivated by the desire not to waste time over a new government, and to expedite reforms of the administration.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticus
"A complete surprise to everbody here in Moscow"

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