(Bloomberg) -- President Vladimir Putin appointed Alexey Dyumin to a top Russian state post, prompting speculation that an official who was once his personal bodyguard is being groomed as a potential successor.

Putin named 51-year-old Dyumin as secretary of the State Council, according to a Kremlin statement published Wednesday. The body responsible for developing “strategic goals and tasks of domestic and foreign policy” draws together Kremlin and government officials with lawmakers and regional leaders.

Putin has given Dyumin a big promotion and an opportunity to shine on a national stage, according to Yevgeny Minchenko, a Moscow political consultant who works with the Kremlin. “It’s clear that Putin is testing him in the role of successor.”

There’s no sign Putin, 71, plans to step down any time soon. He gained a fifth term until 2030 with 87% of the vote in March presidential elections in which he faced no serious competition. And he’s eligible to run for a further six years to 2036 after changing the constitution in 2020 to extend his rule.

Putin appointed Dyumin to the new post after moving him to the Kremlin as a presidential aide from his previous position as governor of Russia’s Tula region in a shuffle this month following his presidential inauguration. 

Dyumin served in Putin’s personal security detail from 1999, rising to become one of his closest bodyguards, and once claimed to have protected the president from a bear. He’s also among an inner circle of officials who play ice hockey with Putin.

He was deputy head of the special operations division of Russia’s GRU military intelligence that was instrumental in Putin’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. A former deputy defense minister, Dyumin is under international sanctions for his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The State Council had a largely ceremonial role until Putin bolstered its power when he changed the constitution to allow himself up to two more terms.

Dyumin’s promotion follows the president’s decision to oust longtime ally Sergei Shoigu as defense minister. Shoigu was made secretary of Russia’s Security Council, and Putin appointed former First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov, an economist, as defense minister.

(Updates with analyst comment in the third paragraph.)

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