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Moscow Ready for CIS Bonds

Russian stock exchanges may soon begin trading bonds from former Soviet states, as a step toward transforming Moscow into an international financial center, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Thursday.

"Our stock exchanges are ready for such a … step — to get countries [from the Commonwealth of Independent States] to place bonds. It's possible in the near future," he said at a meeting chaired by President Dmitry Medvedev.

Plans for turning Moscow into an international financial center, like New York or London, began gaining traction shortly before the financial crisis hit, but the recession put a temporary halt to the plans.

The Kremlin hopes that making Moscow a hub for global capital will aid in Russia's development of an innovative economy and help it kick its dependence on natural resources.

Kudrin said Thursday that Moscow's prospects for becoming a global financial center were good, citing the Global Financial Centers Index, in which Russia is ranked 68th among 75 major financial centers.

He said it was a positive sign that the experts questioned by the survey had included Moscow in the list of global contenders, along with Dubai, Peking and Shanghai.

"We are in the beginning of the list in terms of the potential we have to unlock," Kudrin said, according to a transcript on the Kremlin web site.

The biannual report, composed by Z/Yen Group and commissioned by the City of London, grades the major financial centers in terms of their competitiveness, based on assessments from international financial services professionals.

Moscow, ranked two spots above St. Petersburg, "does not yet have sufficient depth or breadth as a financial center to be considered a specialist or diversified center," said the report, which was published in March.

According to the report, Moscow performed poorly in almost all competitive categories, including infrastructure and business environment, where Moscow was ranked 73rd and 71st, respectively. ? 

Kudrin said Moscow was on good footing in its goals as the MICEX was among the world's top stock exchanges.

He said the exchange was ranked relatively highly in terms of its capitalization, the number of listed companies and trading volume.

To attract the necessary investors, the government is planning a legislative program that will form the legal framework for Moscow's financial ambitions.

Such legislation, including laws on stock exchanges and trading, will be passed within two to three years, Kudrin said.

Medvedev called on the work to be sped up, saying certain priority measures should be expedited.

"The task to begin with is to make conditions of work at the Russian financial market attractive for foreign investors," Medvedev said. "It's a whole complex of problems: It's not only our legislation, but the way our authorities enforce this legislation, as well as the way the rights and … interests of businessmen and investors are protected."

In April, Alexander Voloshin, Norilsk Nickel chairman and former head of the presidential administration, was tipped to oversee Moscow's transformation into an international financial center.

Also bearing responsibility will be Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who will be charged with creating "comfortable work conditions" for foreign investors in Moscow, Medvedev said.

"They must feel no less comfortable than in London, Geneva or New York," he said.

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