50% of Russians back ban on citing prices in dollars - pollster

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MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti) - Half of Russians questioned in a nationwide poll said they favored a proposed ban on setting domestic prices in dollars, a leading pollster said Wednesday.

In May, a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia faction initiated a bill that would ban officials from using the words "dollar" and "euro" in public speeches, and outlaw setting domestic prices in foreign currencies.

Valery Fyodorov, director of the Russian Public Opinion Center, told a roundtable at RIA Novosti that most respondents were inclined to support the ban on "dollar" and "euro" in public statements.

Fifty-seven percent said they disapproved of press reports that denigrated Russia's national currency, the ruble.

Fyodorov said attitudes had changed because people were well aware of ruble appreciation on the international currency market. Twenty-two percent said they closely followed fluctuations of the ruble rate against the dollar, and 35% said they sometimes did.

"People have long ago switched to the ruble," said Boris Titov, head of business group Delovaya Rossiya. "However, our economy continues to be pegged to the dollar because raw materials are exported and goods are imported in dollars."

Following the parliament's initiatives to promote national currency, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the government was unlikely to look on the bill favorably, adding that customs statistics and duties in Russia had been fixed in euros and its foreign debt was counted in foreign currency.

"If I try to quote the world's debt market in rubles, it would be technically and practically impossible considering all [exchange] fluctuations of the ruble to world currencies," Kudrin said.

But MPs passed the first reading in late May, defying the government's assessment.

"We need to move further to a new ruble-based economy both in words and in reality," Titov said.

Valery Galchenko, a member of the lower house of parliament - the State Duma - said a switch to ruble calculations was hampered by the mindset of the Russian elite who, he said, "have their incomes in dollars, keep them in Western banks and see their future outside Russia."

The deputy head of the parliamentary banking committee, Pavel Medvedev, said he backed moves to uproot the habit of thinking in dollars in Russia that was established in the turbulent 1990s and particularly in the wake of the 1998 ruble collapse.

However, he concurred with Kudrin that it would be impossible to refrain from other currencies in some reports, including on foreign debt or international comparisons.

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