August 20, 2013 / 7:17 AM / 6 years ago

Russia's Putin plans to bring back grey cardinal, newspaper says

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin plans to bring the creator of Russia’s tightly controlled political system back to the Kremlin less than four months after he left the government, a newspaper said on Tuesday.

Top-level Kremlin advisor Vladislav Surkov speaks before Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev's last annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow December 22, 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia quoted government sources as saying Putin would appoint Vladislav Surkov as a Kremlin adviser on business innovation and development, a rapid return that would strengthen the liberal camp in his inner circle.

The appointment would give Surkov, 48, influence over the same sector he oversaw as a deputy prime minister until he lost a power struggle with Kremlin conservatives in May.

The government’s spokeswoman declined comment and Putin’s press secretary could not immediately be reached for comment.

Surkov’s departure from the government was a victory for Kremlin hawks who have been in the ascendancy since Putin returned to the presidency last year facing the biggest protests since he first rose to power in 2000.

The president has since launched what opponents say is a clampdown on dissent and has shown no sign of changing his tough stance against the opposition as he tries to consolidate support among conservative voters.

Surkov once wielded vast power behind the scenes as Putin’s top political aide and “grey cardinal” but quit in late 2011 after protests attacked the very system Surkov helped create, concentrating power in the president’s hands.

A year into the new government’s term, he quit in a dispute with federal investigators looking into suspected embezzlement at Skolkovo, a state-owned innovation hub.

Putin often rotates people he trusts in important posts and has a limited pool from which to choose. In his new role, Surkov is likely again to have a say in developments at Skolkovo.

Government sources told Reuters that Surkov had turned down several other posts, including as Putin’s envoy to the North Caucasus region where Russia faces an Islamist insurgency.

Reporting by Timothy Heritage and Darya Korunskaya; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Douglas Busvine

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