President Medvedev picks PM Putin's aide to run Moscow

Image caption,
Sergei Sobyanin (right) has the experience of running a major Russian region

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has nominated Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's close aide as the next mayor of the capital, Moscow.

Sergei Sobyanin, aged 52, was picked to replace Yuri Luzhkov who was sacked last month by Mr Medvedev.

Mr Sobyanin's appointment is expected to be rubber-stamped by Moscow's City legislators.

Mr Medvedev said he removed Mr Luzhkov, who had been in office since 1992, because he lost his "trust".

In the weeks before the sacking on 28 September, Mr Luzhkov had been the subject of a constant barrage from state-run TV, which criticised him for gridlock on the capital's roads and bulldozing historic buildings.

Mr Luzhkov, 74, and his billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina, have been also accused of corruption.

Mr Luzhkov has denounced all the claims as "total rubbish", designed to make him "lose his balance". He has threatened to sue the TV channels concerned.

Putin's man?

"I want to tell you that I have decided to submit your candidacy to the Moscow city government," Mr Medvedev told Mr Sobyanin at a meeting at the presidential country residence in Gorki, outside Moscow, on Friday.

The president also urged Mr Sobyanin to urgently tackle Moscow's main problems, especially corruption and the city's notorious traffic jams.

Mr Sobyanin still needs to be backed by the Moscow's city legislators. But the vote is seen as a formality, because the parliament is dominated by members from the ruling pro-Kremlin United Russia party.

Mr Sobyanin has the experience of running a major Russian region, having served as governor of the Tyumen oblast.

He moved to Moscow in 2005 to become chief of staff to the then President Putin.

In 2008, he ran Mr Medvedev's successful campaign in the presidential polls.

Later that year, Mr Sobyanin rejoined Mr Putin's team after the latter became Russia's prime minister.

Mr Sobyanian's latest appointment could further strengthen Mr Putin's grip on power in the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections, in which he has hinted he may run to return to the Kremlin.

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