Top spin doctor appointed acting head of Kremlin staff

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A secretive Kremlin ideologue was on Thursday appointed acting head of the presidential administration, in a shake-up following mass rallies against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party.

Kremlin spokeswoman Natalia Timakova told reporters that the first first deputy head of the Kremlin staff, Vladislav Surkov, would act as acting head of the presidential administration after its previous chief Sergei Naryshkin gave up his post to become a member of parliament.

"The head of the administration will be appointed shortly," Timakova told reporters on the sidelines of outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Brussels. She did not provide further details.

Naryshkin and deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov will become members of the newly-elected State Duma where the opposition alleges Putin's ruling United Russia party won a slim majority through cheating.

Claims of widespread fraud last weekend triggered a series of protests on a scale unseen in the country since the turbulent 1990s.

In a sign that the Kremlin is under intense pressure to respond to growing discontent, the dour United Russia chairman Boris Gryzlov on Wednesday said he would resign his post as State Duma speaker and some expect Naryshkin to take up that position.

The appointment marks significant promotion for Surkov, described as the architect of Russia's tightly-controlled political system, who is in charge of electoral campaigns and political parties.

In September, the 47-year-old spin doctor became the target of a rare public attack by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov who called him a "puppeteer" stifling political debate in Russia.

© 2011 AFP

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