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A Surprise Choice For Russian Premier

Investors have reacted favorably to President Vladimir V. Putin's appointment of an obscure bureaucrat -- 53-year-old Mikhail Fradkov -- to the post of Russian Prime Minister. After the Mar. 1 announcement, the Russian stock market rose to new highs. A former Trade Minister, Fradkov became head of the tax police under Putin and recently was representative to the European Union.

While some Russians fear a crackdown on past tax avoidance, Fradkov -- who has no apparent political ambitions -- is expected to follow Putin's orders to shake up the civil service and speed economic reform. One priority will be negotiating Russia's entrance to the World Trade Organization. Putin is likely to win a landslide reelection on Mar. 14, further tightening his grip on power. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady

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