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Head of Russia's crime agency suggests nationalising key parts of economy

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin attends a ceremony to award Gold Star medals to Heroes of Russia, in Moscow

(Reuters) - The head of Russia's federal crime agency on Saturday suggested that key sectors of the economy should be returned to state ownership to support Moscow's war in Ukraine.

Moscow has already seized assets or acquired them at a heavy discount from some Western firms that have quit Russia or scaled back their activities since the invasion.

"We are essentially talking about economic security in a war," Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, told a conference that was streamed online. "Let's go along the path of nationalising the main sectors of our economy."

It was an unusual foray into economic policy for Bastrykin, who reports directly to President Vladimir Putin.

Russia conducted wide-ranging and often chaotic privatisations in the 1990s, after the collapse of the communist Soviet Union.

Some of the state's most valuable assets ended up in the hands of so-called oligarchs, many of whom subsequently sold their firms or were forced to cede control back to the state under Putin.

Russia's economy and government coffers rely heavily on production of oil, gas and metals.

Gazprom, Russia's largest natural gas producer, is already controlled by the state. Its largest oil company, Rosneft, is not formally under government control but is headed by Igor Sechin, a long-standing ally of Putin.

Moscow does not call its intervention in Ukraine an invasion, and says it had to act to defend Ukraine's Russian-speakers and avert a threat from NATO - arguments dismissed by Kyiv and the West as baseless pretexts for a war of conquest.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Potter)