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Russia: Currency Trading Cancelled As Central Bank Prints Rubles

Moscow, 21 September 1998 (RFE/RL) - Moscow's Interbank Currency Exchange cancelled trading for the day and fixed the official ruble-dollar rate today at 18 rubles to the dollar -- the same as on Friday. Earlier today, a senior Russian official said the Central Bank has already printed $60 million worth of new rubles and issued short-term credits in an effort to rescue the country's crumbling banking system. Also today, acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov proposed changing the previous government's plan to restructure frozen domestic debt. Zadornov told Interfax that most of the debt should actually be "unfrozen" and redeemed on time.

Domestic and foreign investors had protested the original debt restructuring deal, announced last month by the government of former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko.

Concerning the printing of rubles, Andrei Kozlov, first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, told a press conference that Russia's financial crisis has caused a backlog of bank payments totaling the equivalent of more than $2 billion. Kozlov said that as part of an effort to clear up that backlog, the Central Bank printed 900 million rubles and issued short-term credits to commercial banks.

In addition to Russia's current financial crisis, a spokesman for Russia's Agriculture Ministry announced today that bad weather will force Russia to import two million tons of grain this year.

In related news, Yeltsin today appointed Gennadii Kulik deputy prime minister in charge of agriculture. Kulik, a State Duma deputy, is a member of the Agrarian faction and was deputy chairman of the Duma's Budget Committee. Kulik told Interfax that acting Minister of Agriculture Viktor Semyonov will remain in his position. From 1990 to 1991, Kulik was minister of agriculture.