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Russia - New challenges for the master of debt

Analysts asked to pick future Russian finance ministers a few years back would have been hard pressed to come up with Mikhail Kasyanov’s name. Bankers first got to meet him across the table at debt negotiations. They respect his tough style even if they weren’t always pleased with the outcome. What makes Kasyanov tick and what are his hopes for Russia? Ben Aris asked him

Mikhail Kasyanov

The 13 white plastic telephones on the receptionist's desk - none with dials - show this is the office of a very powerful man. An old Soviet status symbol, the array of phones is equivalent to the bars on a general's shoulder. Most important men have maybe half a dozen.

Mikhail Kasyanov has enjoyed a meteoric rise since he was plucked from obscurity in the state planning department eight years ago. The dark-wood-panelled office in a wing of the White House overlooking the Moskva river belongs to the Finance minister, a job Kasyanov was given in May 1999. Kasyanov is many analysts' top tip for the post of prime minister in Vladimir Putin's new government.

An acknowledged expert on external debt and with a reputation for tough negotiating, following his appointment, some in Moscow wonder if the ebullient and charming minister's experience is too narrow to take on the job of running Fiscal policy.

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