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Russian premier-to-be: trinity of economist, diplomat, policeman
Updated: 2004-03-03 14:53

Russia's Prime Minister designate Mikhail Fradkov gave some clues on Tuesday as to what he hopes to accomplish by pledging to streamline the government and further carry out reforms.

Fradkov, unexpectedly picked by President Vladimir Putin less than two weeks before presidential polls, made the pledge during a meeting with leaders of the pro-Kremlin United Russia faction, which has a two-thirds majority in the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

Fradkov's approval seems secured as United Russia has said it would support him in Friday's Duma session, which would vote on his appointment.

Fradkov said he intends to cut the number of deputy ministers from the current five to one or two and reduce the number of ministries from 24 to around 15.

The premier-to-be also pledged to push through reforms in fields ranging from taxation to administration.

Putin produced one surprise after another on Monday by nominating the 53-year-old Fradkov, a low-profile former trade minister and tax police chief who is now Russia's envoy to the European Union (EU), as the ninth prime minister of Russia.

Fradkov, whose name had not appeared for almost one year in the monthly list of 100 political elite by Russian media, was named as representative to the EU last March after the disbanding of the tax police agency, which had been under his leadership since March 2001. He also served as a foreign trade official during the Soviet era and as Russia's trade minister twice in the 1990s.

Putin said Fradkov had high professional quality and good experience in various aspects of state activity.

His background as a trade official for 20 years has made him well-versed in economic issues, while a stint as deputy secretary of the presidential Security Council has given him experience in security issues and his time as the tax police chief "thorough experience in fighting corruption," said the president.

Russian analysts also attributed Fradkov's nomination to his good relations with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the EU, as he had served as an envoy to both organizations. Russia has striven in recent years to join the WTO and sets integration with Europe as one of its top priorities.

Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who also leads United Russia, said his dominant faction supports Fradkov's candidacy. "Fradkov is fully capable of leading the government in carrying out a strategic reform in Russia."

Another prominent lawmaker from United Russia said President Putin needs an economic expert to take charge of his reforms and Fradkov fits the bill.

To open a new stage in the government work, Russia should have a cabinet chief with as little as possible link with financial oligarchs, he said. Fradkov's being sent out to the EU could be seen as a move to avoid affiliation with them, he added.

Russian media depicted Fradkov as a trinity of economist, international issues expert and police chief and could be easily accepted by all sides. Under the Russian system, the prime minister's top responsibilities focus on economic issues.

Fradkov is expected to give a list of cabinet members no later than next week, which some analysts said is timed to increase the turnout of the March 14 presidential election.

The incumbent President Putin, who boasts an 80-percent approval rating in recent public opinion polls, is generally believed to be reelected.

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