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Russia: Medvedev Blames U.S. For Economic Crisis, Offers Moscow's Help

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum (AFP) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in his first major speech on economics since taking office, has blamed the United States for the global economic downturn and offered Moscow's help.

Medvedev gave the keynote speech at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Russia's main annual event for international investors, and explained his views about the reasons behind the current financial crisis.

"The failure to properly assess risk by the largest financial corporations, combined with the aggressive financial policies of the world's largest economy, have led not only to losses for those corporations," he said, "but unfortunately have impoverished the majority of people on the planet."

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Medvedev also said the gap between the United States' leading role in the global economic system and its real abilities was another "key" reason for the crisis. He said that while Russia was helping to boost global energy security by developing its energy sector, its partners concentrated on investment in biofuels, inflating food prices around the world.

Surprising Tone

RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Danila Galperovich, who attended the forum, says Medvedev's tone probably surprised many observers.

"I think the surprise was that the rhetoric of Mr. Medvedev was the same, in his harsh approach to the West as was [heard] in the speeches of Mr. [Vladimir] Putin," Galperovich says. "Everyone who followed [Medvedev's] recent speeches probably expected him to be softer, to be more cooperative with the West."

Medvedev, who took over as head of state last month after Putin's eight-year presidency, said Moscow is ready to be part of the solution.

"Russia today is a global player, and understanding our responsibility for the fate of the world, we want to take part in forming new rules of the game," Medvedev said, "not because of our alleged imperial ambitions, but because we have the ability and corresponding resources."

Russia's economy expanded steadily under the presidency of Putin, who now holds the post of prime minister, on the back of soaring energy-export revenues. The country is the world's biggest gas producer and its second-biggest oil exporter.

Medvedev said Russia wants a key role in reshaping ineffective international institutions

Recalling Russia's past as a grain exporter, Medvedev pointed to the country's potential as a food supplier to overcome the food problem. He said Russia could also convene an international conference on the financial crisis involving the heads of the biggest financial companies and leading financial analysts "as early as this year."

System 'Cannot Meet Challenges'

Russia's new president said Russia wants a key role in reshaping international institutions, saying they are not ready to remedy the world's economic problems.

"The crisis unfolding before our eyes -- the financial crisis, the rise in prices of natural resources and produce and also a series of global [natural] catastrophes -- clearly demonstrate that the current system of global institutions cannot meet the challenges before it," he said.

Medvedev said the world also lacks liquid investable assets because of disappointment with the U.S. dollar. He said Russia would adopt an action plan in the near future to become a global financial center and make the ruble one of the key leading regional reserve currencies.

"Turning Moscow into a powerful financial center and the ruble into one of the leading regional reserve currencies are key elements will ensure the competitiveness of our financial system," he said. "A plan of action to put these policies into effect will be adopted in the very near future."

Medvedev also said recent moves to liberalize Russia's domestic gas market and reduce taxes on the oil sector would help stabilize global energy markets.

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