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Russia's three main state-controlled lenders - Sberbank, VTB and Gazprombank
Russia's three main state-controlled lenders - Sberbank, VTB and Gazprombank - have agreed to maintain credit on the interbank market at a minimum of 60 billion rubles ($2.4 billion), the Central Bank said on Wednesday.

The move is aimed at easing the situation on the Russian interbank market, shoring up the liquidity of Russian banks, and pushing interbank credit rates down.

The three state banks aim to support certain volumes and quantities of counterparties on the interbank market, Central Bank First Deputy Chairman Alexei Ulyukayev said.

He said the government was preparing a bill to enable the Central Bank to share interbank credit risks with the three state banks in the event that their counterparties default on their obligations.

The Central Bank could be given the powers to supervise the activities of professional securities market participants and make them qualify for refinancing operations. At present the Central Bank does not offer refinancing to liquidity stricken market players.

"We are discussing with the Federal Financial Markets Service (FFMS) this possibility, at least for some market players. We need some supervisory functions, but without encroaching on the FSFM's prerogatives," Ulyukayev said, adding that to qualify for this, professional securities market participants would have to obtain banking licenses.

Ulyukayev said he hoped the volume of funds the Central Bank grants to state-controlled Vnesheconombank from its international reserves to help banks meet their foreign liabilities will be less than the previously established limit of $50 billion.

Vnesheconombank (Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs) was established by the Russian government last year as a national development vehicle to modernize and diversify the Russian economy and make it more competitive.

Ulyukayev said the refinancing through Vnesheconombank will be effective for 15 months, up to the end of 2009.

He also warned that the tense situation with liquidity in Russia could persist for the coming 15 months, and that the government's anti-crisis measures may increase inflation by an annualized one or two percentage points.

Russia's government and Central Bank have recently taken urgent measures to pump billions of U.S. dollars into the domestic stock market to shore up the liquidity of leading market makers.

The head of the Central Bank, Sergei Ignatyev, earlier said inflation in 2008 will be only slightly higher than the 11% forecast, at around 12%, despite the ongoing financial crisis.


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