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    Putin praises Central Bank's slow ruble devaluation strategy

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    MOSCOW, January 27 (RIA Novosti) - The Central Bank's strategy of slowly devaluing the ruble was correct amid the ongoing global financial crisis and met the interests of the national economy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.

    "We did it very smoothly and carefully. The decisions made by the Central Bank lately in relation to the devaluation of the national currency were to a considerable extent very much required by the economy," Putin said in an interview with the U.S. financial news agency Bloomberg broadcast on Tuesday.

    As a result of the Russian monetary authorities' foreign exchange policy, the ruble, which appreciated against the U.S. dollar and the euro for most of 2008, has lost almost about 30% of its value against the greenback since September.

    The Russian currency's official exchange rate was 32.9 rubles to the dollar on Tuesday compared with 29.4 rubles on the last business day of 2008 and 24.7 rubles at the beginning of September.

    Many experts both in Russia and abroad criticized the policy of gradual ruble devaluation launched by Russian monetary authorities in December, saying the gradual weakening of the national currency only fueled expectations of devaluation and failed to support domestic industry, whose output declined more than 10% in December.

    However, Putin said the Russian authorities deliberately acted against the ruble's sharp devaluation.

    "As for the weakening of the national currency and [international] reserves, we did not act like some countries. We did not waste our reserves overnight. We did it smoothly and carefully," he said.

    Russia's international reserves declined from their peak of $598 billion in early August to $396.2 billion in mid-January. Late last week, the Central Bank announced an end to the period of the ruble's accelerated devaluation, setting the upper boundary of the dollar/euro basket, a benchmark guideline in its foreign exchange operations, at 41 rubles.

    This level corresponds to about 36 rubles to the dollar.

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