Originally created 08/15/98

Yeltsin calls for emergency parliament session



NOVGOROD, Russia -- Boris Yeltsin called on parliament today to convene an emergency session to respond to Russia's unfolding economic crisis, helping boost the ailing stock market.

Yeltsin insisted, however, that the economy remained stable, that the ruble would not be devalued, and said there was no need to interrupt his month-long vacation to take charge of the deteriorating situation.

"At this moment, there is no need for that," Yeltsin told reporters upon arrival at Novgorod, an ancient Russian capital north of Moscow. "Moreover, when the president rushes to the Kremlin, everybody thinks that something is wrong."

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, whose party dominates the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said lawmakers "wouldn't mind" holding the emergency session that Yeltsin requested.

Stocks soared today, with trading on the Russian stock exchange suspended temporarily after some shares rose as much as 20 percent. By late afternoon, the Russian Trading System was up 15 percent at 116.48 points after falling most of this week.

In addition to Yeltsin's remarks, analysts said stocks rose in hopes that the United States was patching together a plan to augment the recent financial bailout announced by international lenders.

Yeltsin had a long telephone conversation with President Clinton, his office said late Friday, without giving any details.

Deputies from the Group of Seven industrialized nations held a conference call Thursday to discuss Russia's deteriorating economic situation. Officials declined to say what further measures might be taken.

The ruble was lower today in Moscow. The Russian currency was selling between 6.75 to 7 to the dollar, down from about 6.3 on Thursday.

There have been growing concerns about the stability of some Russian banks. While no defaults have been reported, the Central Bank said Thursday that it was looking into particular problems with two major banks, SBS Agro and Inkombank.

At one SBS branch in Moscow, customers said they were allowed only to withdraw money in rubles, even from accounts that were established in dollars. Those who wanted dollars were told to fill out a form and return in five days.

Yeltsin was in Novgorod to issue an edict restoring the old name of Novgorod Veliky, or Novgorod the Great, in honor of the city's 1,140th anniversary next year.

Despite having been on vacation since mid-July, the 67-year-old president had bags under his eyes and his face appeared puffy. He walked slowly and seemed to have difficulty understanding questions about the economic crisis.

In recent days, the Russian stock market has accelerated its slide and the ruble has come under intense pressure, prompting fears of a devaluation.

But Yeltsin insisted the ruble would not be devalued and said he thought the government had the economic situation under control.

Upon arrival, Yeltsin said he saw no need for a special session of the Duma to consider the remainder of the government's economic austerity plan. Within an hour, however, he had apparently changed his mind. As he arrived for a tour of a meat factory, his press secretary, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said Yeltsin had signed a decree calling on the Duma to meet.

The Duma has passed some portions of the government's austerity plan, which was demanded by international lenders, but recessed for the summer without passing all of it.

After both Yeltsin and Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko pleaded for the special session, Zyuganov said the Duma probably would convene sometime before Sept. 1. "We wouldn't mind," he told reporters.