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08/17/1998 15:33:12 Soros says Russia finance steps timely and brave

MOSCOW, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Top international financier George Soros on Monday welcomed a raft of monetary policy decisions by the Russian government, one of which effectively devalued the rouble. "The Russian government has acted in a timely and brave manner to stop the collapse of the financial system," Soros, who last week urged a devaluation, told radio Ekho-Moskvy in an interview. The government and central bank earlier announced several steps after a crisis in Russian markets, including the widening of the rouble's current exchange rate corridor and a 90-day moratorium on some foreign debt, excluding state debt. The widening of the corridor, with a bottom rate of 9.50 to the dollar versus an earlier 7.13, was seen by many analysts as an effective devaluation of the currency. Soros last week urged a 15-20 percent devaluation of the Russian currency before pegging it under a currency board. He told the radio that the Russian authorities had no choice but to announce its financial and monetary policy measures due to an absence of support from the West. He said the government's steps had acted to limit the loss of reserves from the central bank, which had been trying to support the currency by direct intervention. But Soros said the new measures were not the end of the story for the bealeaguered ex-Soviet giant. "Russia remains as before in a very dangerous situation," he said. He said Russian financial institutions had made losses on Russian markets and that Russian institutions were not in a good shape. ((Patrick Lannin, Moscow Newsroom, +7095 941-8520 moscow.newsroom@reuters.com))

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