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    "WHO IS MIKHAIL FRADKOV?" WAS CRUCIAL QUESTION ON MONDAY FOR EC PRESS CENTRE JOURNALISTS

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    BRUSSELS, MARCH 1. /RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT ALEXANDER SHISHLO/ -- Throughout Monday in focus at the European Commission's press centre was the question "who is Mikhail Fradkov?", whom Vladimir Putin has advanced on Monday for the post of the Russian prime minister.

    This news from Moscow, pushing to the background the theme of the EU trade sanctions against the United States, highlighted the start of the briefing by EU official spokesman Rejo Kempinen. He surprised the majority of the audience saying that Fradkov is the current head of the Russian EU mission.

    The official EU spokesman said that EU chairman Romano Prodi has already congratulated Fradkov on his appointment to the high public post. During his stay in the post, the head of the Russian EU mission has developed "excellent relations" with Prodi and EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lami, Kempinen said.

    The European Commission links this appointment with considerable hopes for the reinvigoration of relations between the EU and Russia, strengthening of contacts at the bilateral level, said Kempinen. To him, the advancement of Fradkov to the post of the prime minister of the Russian Federation is simultaneously an evidence of importance which Moscow attaches to the development of relations with the European Union.

    After the briefing, a EU official, preferring to be unnamed, spoke in the RIA Novosti interview of Fradkov as a top professional and an experienced negotiator who consistently upholds the interests of Russia.

    Although Fradkov became the head of the Russian EU mission not long ago, 2003 summer, he has considerably promoted talks with Brussels regarding Russia's joining the World Trade Organisation, said the EU official.

    The news of Fradkov's nomination as the prime minister has "pleasantly surprised" the Belgian prime minister's public relations officer Didier Seus. He has confessed to have learnt the news from the RIA Novosti correspondent.

    Seus is sure that this appointment will promote positive cooperation between Russia and Belgium, reinvigorate relations between the European Union and Russia.

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