Ukraine central banker named first deputy prime minister

Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:45am EST
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KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Monday named Serhiy Arbuzov - who has until now run the central bank - first deputy prime minister in the new government, making him an important player in upcoming talks with the IMF.

The appointment to the No.2 government position also makes Arbuzov, who is a member of Yanukovich's inner circle, a likely successor to Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Ukraine's government resigned on December 3 after October's parliamentary election and its members have since served in an interim capacity, apart from Azarov who was reappointed on December 13.

The first major task of the new cabinet will be to secure a new bailout program from the International Monetary Fund.

An IMF mission is due to visit Ukraine late in January for what are expected to be tough talks on nailing down a new stand-by arrangement to help Ukraine repay, or refinance, more than $9 billion debt falling due to foreign creditors in 2013.

This includes $6.4 billion already owed to the IMF which Ukraine says it hopes to refinance.

The IMF has urged Kiev to cut subsidies on household gas and heating prices but Azarov has so far refused to take the unpopular step. However, Kiev may have to become more flexible.

Arbuzov, 36, will take over as first deputy prime minister from Valery Khoroshkovsky who quit the cabinet this month in protest at Azarov's re-appointment.

According to a separate decree issued by Yanukovich on Monday, Arbuzov will be in charge of economy, trade, state finances, agriculture and social policy.   Continued...

Serhiy Arbuzov attends a session of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev December 23, 2010. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich