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Russian MPs move to allow central bank to buy shares

Russia pressed on with its market rescue plans, with MPs proposing to allow the central bank to buy securities, including shares, and the deputy prime minister calling for the state to help tech sector firms.

Russia plans to spend up to 175 billion roubles ($6.64 billion) on share purchases this year and at least as much again in 2009 as part of its $210 billion rescue package, with the state Development Bank (VEB) acting as its main agent.

Russian markets have lost more than half of their value since May, with global turmoil and its conflict with Georgia spurring a flight of capital that has left authorities taking a range of steps to prop up the financial system.

The law changes proposed in the lower house of parliament, the Duma, would let the central bank act in the stock and bond markets directly, as well as operate on the repo market where companies use bonds or stocks as collateral for loans.

“The proposed changes are increasing the efficiency of refinancing of the banking sector,” according to the statement submitted with the proposal.

Sources at the Duma said the law could be approved in second and third readings next Thursday.

Separately, Russian news agencies quoted deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov as saying the share purchases could include the most significant companies from the technology sector.

He added that the state should ensure companies can receive loans at annual interest of 8%-9%.

The sector has been highlighted as a priority as Russia strives to reduce the economy's focus on natural resources.

Ivanov also asked the banks to provide funding to all of Russia's airlines, which struggle with high fuel costs. (Reuters)