US image as world leader damaged due to financial crisis: Putin

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Moscow, Oct 10 (UNI) Blaming the US for the global financial crisis, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the financial crisis has irreparably damaged the US image as the leader of the free world and the global economy.

''Trust in the United States as the leader of the free world and the free economy, and confidence in Wall Street as the centre of that trust, has been damaged, I believe, forever,'' Mr Putin said at a Communist Party meeting yesterday.

''There will be no return to the previous situation,'' he added.

Mr Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have repeatedly accused the US of responsibility for the crisis and called for changes in the world financial system.

Putin made the statement ahead of the Finance Ministers of the G-7 meet beginning today in Washington. When Russia joins the group for political discussions, it becomes the G-8.

Meanwhile, the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, today approved a package of measures worth 86 billion dollar to assist banks hit by the credit freeze.

The government will make 50 billion dollar available to banks and firms that need to refinance foreign debt. The rest will be available as loans to banks.

The package is designed to restore confidence in Russian banks and revive shares, which has seen steep falls.

Trade on Russian stock exchanges has been suspended since Wednesday.

Trading in the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX) index and the Russian Trading System (RTS) exchange was stopped after falls of more than 10 per cent in the first hour of trade on Wednesday.

The MICEX and the RTS, did not open for full trading today upon instructions from the financial markets' regulator, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Prior to their usual 1030 hrs (local time) opening, both exchanges said would remain closed and were awaiting further instructions, although an RTS spokesman said it would allow trading in repo contracts and bond repurchases.

No official information has so far been available on when the two bourses will resume trading.

UNI XC PD BD1922

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