Russia's Kudrin wants government role after elections

Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Tuesday he was ready to stay in government in any role after elections to push through economic reforms but declined to be drawn on speculation that he would become prime minister.

Kudrin, 50, is popular with foreign investors for guiding Russia through the global economic crisis of 2008 and is widely seen as a front runner to become prime minister if Vladimir Putin runs in the presidential election in March.

But Kudrin, who has been finance minister since May 2000, did not reply directly to questions about who might be prime minister after the presidential vote, which follows a parliamentary election on December 4.

"If reforms need to be carried out, I am ready to work with a government that is headed by a person who is ready to do that," Kudrin told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit.

"But I repeat, I will work (with the government) only if reforms are carried out," he said in an interview at the Reuters Moscow office.

The ability to carry out far-reaching reforms, he said, would depend on who leads Russia after the elections and how much support that person has.

Political analysts have repeatedly put Kudrin high on the list of potential candidates to replace Putin if the prime minister decides to run in the March presidential election.

Asked about the speculation about his own future, Kudrin said: "I would prefer not to comment."

Putin ushered his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, into the presidency in 2008 because he was barred by the constitution from seeking a third successive term. He and Medvedev are unlikely to both run in March but have not said which of them will take part.

Some analysts say Medvedev and Putin could agree to swap positions. If they do not, others who could be in the running to be prime minister include Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and -- a long shot -- oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov, who has just entered politics.

Kudrin is a close ally of Putin and, like the prime minister, worked in the administration of former St Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, a liberal.

Foreign investors like Kudrin for his efforts at fiscal prudence -- his policy of paying off Russia's debts and building up its foreign currency reserves helped the country through the 2008 crisis.

[Source: By Timothy Heritage, Reuters, Moscow, 14Sep11]

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