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Putin appoints long-term ally as new intelligence agency boss

Russian President Putin has appointed the country's former parliamentary speaker as the new head of Russia's foreign intelligence agency. The move came days after the United Russia party won at legislative elections.

Former Duma boss Sergei Naryshkin, who is widely reported to have served alongside Putin in the Soviet-era KGB spy agency, is due to take over as head of the SVR. Naryshkin is considered to be a longtime Putin ally.

According to Naryshkin's biography he served at the Soviet embassy in Brussels during the 1980s before working with Putin in the Saint Petersburg mayor's office.

Naryshkin replaces Mikhail Fradkov, days after the ruling United Russia party won legislative elections which led to a new speaker of the house taking over. Fradkov had previously served as prime minister under Putin for four years before taking leadership of the SVR in 2008, and will now move to the board of directors at the state-run Russian Railways.

The announcement came as the latest in a series of changes at the top of Russia's power structure, most notably the departure of longtime ally Sergei Ivanov as the Kremlin's chief of staff.

Spy games

The change in leadership of the SVR comes during Russia's worst standoff with the West since the Cold War ended. The crisis in Ukraine and Moscow's backing of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria have both led to a spike in spying activity on both sides.

The SVR spy agency emerged from the KGB's first directorate after it was split up following the collapse of the USSR.

ss/kl (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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