• ACI Russia

08/14/1998 23:18:47 Yeltsin puts brave face on rouble's troubles

By Andrei Khalip

MOSCOW, Aug 15 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin has put a

brave face on the bruising suffered by Russia's share markets

and the rouble, saying the country has the resources it needs to

weather the crisis.

"There is a new wave of world financial crisis and we have

to brace ourselves again to be able to deal with this

situation," Yeltsin said. "We've calculated our reserves and are

ready to resist."

He said he saw no need to rush back to Moscow from his

vacation in lakeland Valdai. "That would signify that there was

turmoil," he told reporters.

U.S. president Bill Clinton, who spoke to Yeltsin by

telephone for 40 minutes on Friday, had a different opinion.

U.S. officials said Clinton urged Yeltsin to act quickly and

decisively to restore confidence in the Russian economy.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry's account implied that

Clinton and Yeltsin had not discussed the possibility of further

international aid to Russia, which only last month agreed a

$22.6 billion bail-out with international lenders.

McCurry said that the two talked about the rouble. He gave

no details.

Russian share prices meanwhile halted a week of near

free-fall, moving higher so sharply that trading had to be

briefly suspended.

But while stocks closed up nearly 14 percent, traders said

volume was too thin to signify an end to fears of financial


The rouble stood at between 6.37 and 6.70 per dollar, well

below the central bank's floor for the day of 6.31. Its fall

shows the market is betting on devaluation, in spite of adamant

denials from Yeltsin the central bank.

Some foreign exchange booths shut down in central Moscow,

blaming a lack of hard currency. Others would sell dollars only

at premium rates ranging up to eight roubles.

Some banks refused to allow depositors to withdraw dollars

from savings accounts -- a first sign of currency trouble for

ordinary Russians.

But Yeltsin told reporters: "There will be no devaluation --

that's firm and definite."

Central bank spokeswoman Irina Yasina said central bank

chief Sergei Dubinin and Kremlin debt negotiator Anatoly Chubais

were returning from holiday this weekend but denied there was

any plan to devalue the rouble while markets were closed.

Yeltsin's Communist opponents said they were ready to agree

to a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament,

where they are a dominant force. But they made clear they wanted

to take the cabinet to task rather than talk about rushing

government proposals onto the statute books.

Yeltsin signed an appeal to the Duma to break into its

summer recess.

Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko has been urging the Duma to

return next week to pass a dozen tax and other bills which

ministers say are a vital part of their crisis measures.

Kiriyenko said in Kazan that he was going to discuss a "wide

range of economic problems" with Yeltsin on Monday.

The Duma has yet to decide whether to convene the session,

which Kiriyenko believes could be held before the end of August.

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