Russia's Putin calls for regional currency union

Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:00am EDT
 
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By Denis Dyomkin and Raushan Nurshayeva

ASTANA (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed on Friday creating a regional currency union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, Russia's main partners in a union of ex-Soviet states facing growing economic challenges.

Putin made his proposal at a meeting with the Belarussian and Kazakh presidents, who did not respond in public but have been lukewarm about such proposals.

"The time has come to start thinking about forming a currency union," Putin told reporters after the talks in the Kazakh capital Astana with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

He gave no details but suggested it would be beneficial for the three countries to work closely together as they try to overcome their economic difficulties.

Kazakhstan, the second-largest post-Soviet oil producer and economy after Russia, has said the three nations should synchronize their monetary policies before considering adopting a single currency.

Grigory Marchenko, a former head of Kazakhstan's central bank, has estimated that it would take 10 to 12 years before such a currency was introduced.

"Two days ago we met with our prime minister," another former Kazakh central bank chief, Oraz Jandosov, told Reuters. "We asked him about this and he said: 'We know nothing about this. This is their (Russia's) initiative. We haven't spoken about this (with the Russians)'," he said.

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R, back) walks in as he attends a session during the Week of Russian Business, organized by the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), in Moscow, March 19, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev