Shuvalov Tapped as Top First Deputy Premier

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has signed a decree stipulating that his first deputy Igor Shuvalov will fill in for him when he's away, Interfax has reported, citing the government's web site.

Officials at the government's press office contacted Thursday refused to confirm the report, however, and the decree could not be located on the government's web site.

Interfax's report late Tuesday prompted some national newspapers to speculate that Putin had made Shuvalov, a liberal economist and the government's former sherpa to the Group of Eight, "the first among equals" and a possible successor.

President Dmitry Medvedev reportedly wanted to appoint Shuvalov, a key aide to Putin, as his chief of staff before Putin promoted Shuvalov to his current post.

The decree also said the other first deputy prime minister, Viktor Zubkov, would fill in for Shuvalov, when he is away, and vice versa. Deputy Prime Ministers Alexander Zhukov and Alexei Kudrin would fill in for each other.

Government chief of staff and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Sobyanin and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov will fill in for each other, the decree said. While Sergei Ivanov will stand in for Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, it was not clear whether Sechin would stand in for any of the other deputy prime ministers, Interfax said.