UPDATE 1-Russia's Putin: central bank plans to sell banks it rescues

(Adds Putin's quote, background)

MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The Russian central bank plans in the future to sell banks to market investors that it bailed out, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.

The central bank "takes over dying banks, recovers them and then plans to put them on the market," Putin said.

Within a few months this year the central bank had to rescue three major banks - Otkritie, B&N and Promsvyazbank - after shutting hundreds of troubled lenders in the past few years as it cleans up the country's banking sector.

The central bank has repeatedly said it would sell the banks it rescued back to the market once it finishes their financial rehabilitation and finds a buyer.

Before it rescued Promsvyazbank last week, the central bank had also said it considered possible to merge Otkritie and B&N.

Speaking at an annual news conference in mid-December, Putin said he supported the way the central bank was cleaning up the banking sector as it makes the financial system healthier.

So far this year, the central bank shut 61 bank, bringing the number of banks in Russia to 520.

(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)