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Putin says Russian banks out of trouble

RUSSIAN Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russian banks are out of trouble when he announced a 3-trillion-ruble (US$90 billion) package to pull Russia out of its worst economic crisis in a decade.

Russia is on the brink of recession after the country's US$1.7 trillion economy contracted by 7 percent in the first quarter.

The government will divert 1.4 trillion rubles from the federal budget to fight the financial crisis on several fronts, including strengthening the domestic banking system and social welfare programs.

But the total value of the crisis measures, including tax relief, will come to 3 trillion rubles, Putin said.

In his first annual address to parliament as prime minister, Putin said Russia's banking system was now out of trouble after narrowly averting collapse.

"The threat of the collapse of the banking system has receded," Putin said. "But (the threat) was quite real, it was literally on the edge."

Russia's banking sector came under huge pressure last fall after the country's stock markets plunged and external creditors froze lending. Lending all but ceased to the real economy in Russia, stalling many business projects.

That combined with sliding oil prices and lower global demand have reversed nine years of robust economic growth, which was fueled by high oil prices and a consumer boom.

Putin said banks that received state support have boosted lending by 15 percent in the past five months - an indicator that money is starting to move into the real economy.

Banks that did not receive help upped lending by 7 percent, he said.


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