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    MOSCOW, MARCH 1 (RIA Novosti correspondent Larisa Sayenko) - No one has expected Mikhail Fradkov to come as prime-ministerial nominee. The news made the Russian stock market gasp, and stock plummet. However, the cream of Russian and Western society is fairly optimistic.

    Mr. Fradkov is a steeled corruption fighter as former fiscal police chief, was the main reason for Vladimir Putin's choice, said the President.

    Mikhail Fradkov, 53, is a man of integrity, and aloof to clannish interests. In between liberals and hardliners, he will make a "technical premier". Russian political activists and experts agree on those points.

    "Fradkov and I were working together at the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations. I know him as a good and honest person, and top-notch specialist-but he will not make whatever independent moves," says presidential hopeful Sergei Glazyev.

    Mr. Fradkov is something of a dark horse to Western experts, so they are not ready to speak up on his nomination.

    Characteristically, Fradkov came last but one in a Top Hundred List of Russian VIPs' public ratings the Moscow-based weekly Commersant-Vlast carried last year.

    Nevertheless, the sensation has an ominous undercurrent to certain experts-Mikhail Fradkov used to be chief of the fiscal police, which had nourished the Yukos controversy.

    "Fradkov may have a good business reputation in the foreign markets but he is universally viewed as a hardliner, so we expect a Cabinet of tough financial and fiscal discipline," says Boris Makarenko of the Political Technologies Centre.

    Parliamentarians of the United Russia, majority group of the State Duma-lower house, on the contrary, regard the nominee as liberal reformer.

    The policeman diplomat has every chance to find common language with Europe, what with his previous high post of Russian ambassador to the European Union, deem news analysts.

    "The nomination can be viewed as a Kremlin curtsey to the West," says Andrei Piontkovsky, Strategic Study Centre president.

    Fradkov appeared on the Russian political top in 2001, when an anti-graft campaign reached its peak, and a drive to get fiscal matters into order was in full swing. As soon as he became Federal Fiscal Police boss, he came up against an acting law that exempted tax evaders from punishment in case of repentance and reimbursement. Many lances were broken in the State Duma before it passed a related amendment, which fiscal police experts had drafted and the Kremlin offered to parliament.

    The fiscal police became stronger and spectacularly expanded its duties under Mikhail Fradkov. Big Biz sat up and took notice. What Fradkov himself thought of it was vague-he was never a public figure, and only few media outlets cared to carry his opinions.

    "While in Novosibirsk, Mikhail Fradkov, Federal Fiscal Police director, said outright that a tax cop was to work with his brains, pen in hand, and not throw up violent actions," pointed out the regional newspaper, Novaya Sibir, quoting the future federal Prime Minister.

    As the fiscal police was disbanded and Fradkov got his appointment to Brussels, nongovernment media outlets regarded it as honourable banishment of a man Russian tycoons disliked.

    "It was Fradkov, then fiscal police chief, who stocked up a huge Yukos file on all tax-related matters. As we know, the fate of such files as that is, in this country, ruled by the law of conservation of energy-that is, files, like energy, do not vanish but pass from condition to condition. True, Khodorkovsky had Fradkov fired, but Fradkov's cause survives," the Moscow-based daily Gazeta caustically remarked last year, even before the Yukos boss was detained.

    Fradkov was, on a great many instances, loyal to President Putin's policies. He will do so now as Prime Minister, expect news analysts and political experts.

    "A necessary and well-pondered thing to do," Mikhail Fradkov said in public as President Putin decreed the fiscal police disbanded, in 2002-a thunderbolt ironically timed to its jubilee galas.

    Fradkov came in plain clothes for his last conference with fiscal policemen, who were all sporting full dress on the occasion. "Please don't forget you are cops, all of you," the bass called as he was saying goodbye, the media reported that memorable day.

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