Exclusive: Radical economist emerges as leading Russian central bank contender

A controversial economist and former presidential candidate who accuses the West of conspiring to turn Russia into an economic colony has emerged, sources said, as a leading contender to take charge at the country's central bank.

Sergei Glazyev, a Kremlin economic adviser, is being linked to the post a month before a deadline for Vladimir Putin to nominate a successor to Sergei Ignatyev, who retires on June 23 after 11 years heading the central bank.

One high-ranking source in Moscow's liberal economic establishment said Glazyev is viewed favorably by both Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. A second source confirmed his status as a candidate, and a third said he might get the job.

Other candidates in the frame are central bankers Alexei Ulyukayev and Sergei Shvetsov, and former Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, now head of state bank VTB's retail arm, two of the sources said.

Also in the frame, but regarded as long shots, are VTB CEO Andrei Kostin and Andrei Bugrov, a former financial diplomat who now holds a senior position at billionaire Vladimir Potanin's investment company Interros.

"Glazyev is under consideration because the other five do not suit either Putin or Medvedev at all," the first source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some insiders have been quick to write off Glazyev, who during his presidential run in 2004 lambasted Putin for running "a corrupt and irresponsible regime". Yet the speed with which Glazyev's star has risen since he endorsed the Russian leader's bid for a third Kremlin term a year ago has caught attention.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the central bank succession. Glazyev, appointed by Putin last July to advise on regional economic integration, was not available to comment on Thursday, an aide said.

In a preliminary report to Putin, cited by the Vedomosti daily on January 18, Glazyev wrote: "As a result of the growing issuance of global currencies, the threat arises that Russian assets can be taken over by foreign capital."

Those comments drew a prompt and withering response from Anatoly Chubais, a leading market reformer who worked in government with Glazyev 20 years ago and now heads Russia's state technology fund Rosnano.

"A person who argues in all seriousness that the United States and Europe are issuing money so that they can grab Russian assets on the cheap can be anyone, as long as he is healthy; just not an economist," Chubais deadpanned on his blog.

(Additional reporting by Polina Devitt and Katya Golubkova; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Hugh Lawson)