Russia 'plans new rouble'

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MOSCOW - Izvestia reported yesterday that Russia planned to issue a new national currency and give the ailing economy a big injection of state cash, steps which would overthrow the tight monetary policy of the ousted prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, and displease the International Monetary Fund, writes Helen Womack.

The newspaper quoted the Central Bank's deputy-chairman, Valerian Kulikov, as saying Mr Gaidar's team had reduced Russian bankers to 'robots' obeying the IMF, but that it was impossible to curb inflation using only the rouble, as the young reformers had tried to do. 'Russia is ready to shift to a national currency, something that will happen any day now,' it quoted him as saying.

There was no official announcement of any planned money reform, something which ordinary Russians dread, because they fear it could make their savings worthless. Izvestia is normally a reliable newspaper but it is currently embroiled in a bitter dispute with Arkady Volsky, a leader of the industrialists' group Civic Union, who accuses one of its journalists of misquoting him about the composition of the new cabinet.

According to the report, Mr Kulikov criticised Mr Gaidar, who was replaced by Viktor Chernomyrdin last week. 'Unfortunately, everything was decided for the Central Bank by the International Monetary Fund and we had to be robots, obediently following predetermined goals,' he was quoted as saying. 'The monetary policy of Gaidar's government was probably correct but it is utopian to expect that, considering the structure of our economy and finances, we can curb inflation only with the help of the rouble.'