Russia's Putin may pick Kudrin protege as top aide -paper

Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:39am EDT

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* Golikova may replace central bank-bound Nabiullina

* Golikova was Kudrin's deputy at finance ministry

* Was health and social services minister in 2007-12

MOSCOW, March 15 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin may promote an adviser with close ties to former finance minister Alexei Kudrin to become his most senior economic aide, newspaper Vedomosti reported on Friday.

Citing administration sources, the financial daily said Tatyana Golikova may replace Elvira Nabiullina, chosen by Putin to become the next head of Russia's central bank.

The job of Kremlin 'chief economist' has typically been filled by a technocrat. It has a high level of access and potential to influence Putin's thinking - critical to the course of policy in the vertical power structure he has created.

Since the Russian leader's return for a third Kremlin term, he has shown a greater inclination to prioritise reviving flagging economic growth over bringing down inflation.

That has put the central bank under pressure to ease monetary policy. Economists say Nabiullina's appointment may lead to the central easing rates more aggressively after she assumes the post in June.

Golikova served as health and social security minister from 2007 to 2012, and before that was a deputy finance minister. Sources have said she was close to Kudrin, who was known for ordering "coffee and Golikova" at the start of his working day.

Kudrin, who resigned as finance minister in September 2011, is a fiscal hawk whose main policy achievements were to restore Russia's budget to surplus and save, rather than spend, windfall oil revenues. He remains a highly influential figure.

Golikova, 47, followed Putin to the Kremlin and has a narrow role offering development advice to two regions that broke away from the ex-Soviet state of Georgia - Abkhazia and South Ossetia - after a brief war with Russia in 2008.

Vedomosti said it was also possible that Sergei Glazyev, another Kremlin economic aide and former presidential candidate, might replace Nabiullina.

Glazyev briefly emerged as a contender to replace outgoing central bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev, but his unorthodox views provoked a deluge of criticism from the liberal economic policy establishment, ruling him out of contention.

A Kremlin spokesman, quoted by Vedomosti, said it would be premature to comment on who might replace Nabiullina. (Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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