Thu, Dec 18, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Putin agrees to talks on Ukraine in conference call


Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French, German and Ukrainian counterparts agreed in a telephone call early yesterday that they wanted talks between Kiev, Moscow and rebels controlling parts of eastern Ukraine to resume as soon as possible.

The telephone conversation came after the White House confirmed that US President Barack Obama would sign into law fresh sanctions against Russia, amid a dramatic run on the ruble.

The Russian government looked at ways of easing the selling pressure on the ruble yesterday amid fears the country might face a full-blown bank run and as consumers look to buy big-ticket items before prices rise.

Russian Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Moiseyev was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the government is going to sell foreign currency “as much as necessary and as long as necessary.’’

That, the hope is, would relieve the pressure on the ruble, particularly against the US dollar.

The ruble’s opening bounce fizzled yesterday as the currency shrugged off the latest hard currency sales against a backdrop of general bearishness on Russia, to level at 68.40 rubles to US$1. The ruble has lost more than 50 percent of its value this year.

The ruble has suffered catastrophic losses this week as traders fretted over the effect of low oil prices on the Russian economy, as well as the impact of Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s involvement in Ukraine’s crisis.

The Kremlin said in a statement that the leaders “continued discussion of the crisis situation in Ukraine,” and stressed the “necessity of a stable ceasefire” in conflict-hit eastern Ukraine.

They also spoke of “the importance of holding a meeting of the contact group as soon as possible in the interests of carrying out the Minsk pact,” the Kremlin said, referring to a peace deal reached in September.

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