Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday appointed a low-profile former diplomat his new Kremlin chief of staff, one of the most powerful jobs in Russia, saying his long-time ally, Sergei Ivanov, had asked to step down.

The switch, made at a time when Russia is grinding its way through a prolonged economic crisis, comes just over a month before nationwide parliamentary elections and follows a reshuffle of regional leaders last month.

Putin named Anton Vaino, 44, to the important post which involves drafting laws for the president to submit to parliament, monitoring their enforcement, and conducting analysis of domestic and foreign affairs for the president.

Vaino used to work in the Russian Embassy in Japan and had worked as deputy head of the Kremlin administration since 2012.

He is not a household name in Russia unlike Ivanov, who was once spoken of as a possible presidential contender.

Ivanov, 63, said he had asked Putin to move him on from the important post after four years. He said he had done the job for four years and eight months.

Ivanov also worked as Putin's deputy when Putin ran the FSB security service. He has also served as defense minister and first deputy prime minister.