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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zubkov, Putin Go Way Back

Like his predecessor, Viktor Zubkov kept a low profile before being propelled to the post of prime minister, but he maintained close personal ties with President Vladimir Putin since their days together in St. Petersburg City Hall.

Zubkov, currently head of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, served under Putin in St. Petersburg's foreign relations committee for 10 months, from 1992 to 1993.

"He has very close connections [with Putin] and at that time was responsible for a wide range of foreign economic ties for St. Petersburg," said Vatanyar Yagya, who was a close adviser to Mayor Anatoly Sobchak at the time.

Like Putin, Zubkov was fond of Sobchak. He attended a memorial service for the former mayor Aug. 10, Yagya said.

Zubkov also is described as having a spotless reputation. "Although I know him and his circle ... nothing bad has ever surfaced. He is a careful person," said Nikolai Andrushenko, a former independent Leningrad and then St. Petersburg city deputy, who worked closely with Sobchak's office in the 1990s. He called Zubkov "an ideal administrator."

First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who had been widely expected to receive the nomination for prime minister, described Zubkov as quiet but capable.

"He is someone whom I know quite well, and he is a man who, as we say in Russian, has worked without making any noise. ... He is perfectly competent," Ivanov said on NTV television.

When Zubkov worked with Putin in the St. Petersburg administration, Putin used to refer to him using the formal "vy" form, while Zubkov used the more familiar "ty," said Stanislav Belkovsky, a political analyst with the Council for National Strategy.

"As a bureaucrat, he taught Putin basic bureaucratic skills," Belkovsky said.

Zubkov's resume does not have blank spaces or foreign service postings that would suggest he had links to the KGB.

As chief of the Financial Monitoring Service since 2001, Zubkov fought money laundering at a time when Putin began his campaign against the oligarchs, who had made fortunes through controversial deals. A highlight of Zubkov's career was Russia's removal from the blacklist drawn up by the Financial Action Task Force, an international body that combats money laundering. In October 2005, Zubkov said his service had blocked 109 bank accounts that could have been used to finance terrorism.

Zubkov, who turns 66 on Saturday, had been preparing to step down from his agency, apparently because he had passed the retirement age for civil servants, which is 65.

As recently as Monday, rumors swirled that he might get a Federation Council seat from the Leningrad region. In March, United Russia suggested that Zubkov should become a senator representing Omsk. Critics describe the Federation Council as a "featherbed" for retired government officials.

As prime minister, Zubkov would draw on his more recent knowledge of the country's finances and 18 years of experience managing farms in Soviet times. "Viktor Zubkov possesses the deepest knowledge of the financial condition of any Russian company, any organization and any bank," Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said, Interfax reported.

Bankers spoke courteously about Zubkov. "He is a pleasant, intelligent and thoughtful person who tries to understand anything he does," said Garegin Tosunyan, head of the Association of Russian Banks.

As a farm manager from 1967 to 1985, Zubkov could bring positive changes to the national agricultural policy, Mironov said.

Zubkov is father-in-law of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who is married to his daughter Yulia.

Zubkov's first job was as a repairman at a factory. He later went on to study as an economist specializing in agriculture. After managing state farms around St. Petersburg for 18 years, he joined the city government in 1985. From 1993 to 2001, Zubkov served as a senior federal tax official.

In 1998, he unsuccessfully ran for governor of the Leningrad region. His campaign manager was Boris Gryzlov, now speaker of the State Duma.