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Russia: Ruble Devalues, Duma To Hold Special Session

Moscow, 17 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said today that Russia's State Duma will meet in an emergency session on Friday to debate the country's financial crisis.

The government requested the extraordinary session in order to secure Duma approval for its anti-crisis program considered vital to continued International Monetary Fund support in the wake of today's de-facto devaluation of the ruble.

Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko said that today's surprise package of emergency measures designed to stabilize Russia's financial situation is tough but adequate.

Kirienko spoke after Moscow announced a drastic change in monetary policy, including floating the ruble within a broader trading band, and a 90-day moratorium on foreign-debt repayments. The package also includes limits on non-residents' currency operations as a barrier against short-term speculative flows.

On the ruble, the Central Bank widened the corridor within which the bank will support the currency, from 6.3/$1 to 9.5/$1.

Kirienko will likely ask deputies to approve a series of tax increases and spending cuts which they had previously voted down before the summer recess.

Zyuganov, however, indicated today that the Duma was not likely to consider any new draft laws prepared by the government as part of its anti-crisis program. ITAR-TASS cites Zyuganov as saying that today's de-facto devaluation of the ruble will hit the poorest sections of society hardest and will lead to price increases and bankruptcies.

Also today, Interfax reports that top economic aide Aleksandr Livshits tendered his resignation to Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Interfax reports that Livshits said he was partly responsible for the current financial crisis which led to the ruble devaluation.