Top Putin ally appointed head of Kremlin staff: official

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Deputy Russian Prime Minister and one-time presidential hopeful Sergei Ivanov, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, has been appointed the Kremlin chief of staff, Kremlin spokeswoman Natalia Timakova.

"(President Dmitry) Medvedev has appointed Sergei Ivanov as the head of his administration," Natalia Timakova told AFP.

The appointment marks a significant promotion for the 58-year-old former KGB officer, who is believed to be a member of Putin's inner circle and comes as the Russian strongman is planning to reclaim his old Kremlin job in March presidential elections.

Many observers had considered Ivanov the top candidate for the 2008 presidency before then president Putin had to step down after a maximum two consecutive terms and publicly endorsed Medvedev's candidacy.

Top Kremlin idealogue and deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov had been appointed to the job earlier this month on a temporary basis.

The move also comes after the Russian lower house of parliament on Wednesday approved the candiadacy of Sergei Naryshkin -- another Putin ally believed to have a KGB past -- to the job of speaker.

© 2011 AFP

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