Struggling Russian carmaker Avtovaz (AVAZ.MM) said on Friday it wanted to strengthen its partnership with shareholder Renault (RENA.PA), a day after a top Russian banker suggested a tie-up with Opel.

Canada's car parts maker Magna (MGa.TO) and Russia's Sberbank (SBER03.MM) last week won a deal for control of Opel.

The Kremlin has praised Washington's green light for Russian investments in General Motors Co's GM.UL European arm [ID:nLF16843] and Sberbank's chief executive said on Thursday he saw a role for AvtoVAZ in the Opel deal.

But AvtoVAZ's President Igor Komarov said on Friday he first wanted to see partnerships with the French carmaker Renault and its Japanese alliance partner, Nissan Motor Co (7201.T), although other deals were also possible.

We plan to create a joint venture with Renault and Nissan in the near future because the merger and the use of technical and technological expertise of our partners or other producers will help us acquire innovations, Komarov told an investment conference in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Renault, which owns a 25 percent stake in Avtovaz, would only confirm that the companies were working toward closer cooperation in purchasing.

Two sources at AvtoVAZ also said Komarov was referring to a partnership in car parts purchases. Global car makers have opened a number of assembly plants in Russia in recent years and the government has encouraged them to also produce parts locally.

Russian car sales have plummeted this year as recession-hit consumers have cut spending. Car sales fell 54 percent year-on-year in August.

AvtoVAZ plans to cut 5,000 jobs and its workers have threatened mass protests, a rare event in Russia, which has enjoyed a decade of stability during the economic boom under former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin.

(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski, Toni Vorobyova and Helen Massy-Beresford; Additional reporting by Gilles Guillaume; Writing by Dmitry Zhdannikov, Editing by David Cowell)