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Putin Dissolves Government, Nominates Viktor Zubkov as New Prime Minister

President Vladimir Putin dissolved Russia's government Wednesday and then quickly nominates Viktor Zubkov, a Russian Cabinet official who oversees the fight against money laundering, to be the new prime minister.

Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the State Duma, said Putin nominated Zubkov, who heads the Federal Financial Monitoring Service and who served under Putin when the two worked in the city administration of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s.

Earlier Wednesday, in a major political shakeup, Putin dismissed Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and dissolved his cabinet, paving the way for Putin to name a new head of government.

Most observers had expected that the new premier would be the leading contender to succeed Putin when he steps down after March elections.

But Zubkov had not been even considered as a contender.

A Kremlin source told FOX News that Zubkov was not Putin's choice to be the next president of Russia.

The newspaper Vedomosti, citing unidentified Kremlin officials, reported that Sergei Ivanov, a first deputy prime minister and a leading contender to succeed Putin, could be appointed to replace Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

FOX Facts: Russia's Government

Another first deputy prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who is a top executive at natural gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, was considered the other leading contender.

Under the constitution, which the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has one week to vote on a nominee for prime minister. the pres. Russian news agencies said Fradkov would serve as acting prime minister until the vote.

Fradkov said he asked for the dissolution of his government because with elections approaching, Putin needed to have a free hand to make decisions, including those concerning appointments.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled for Dec. 2, followed some three months later by presidential balloting.

"You might be right that we must all think about how to structure the government so that it better suits the pre-election period and prepares the country for what will happen after the parliamentary and presidential elections," Putin said.

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