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President Says He's a Ruble Fan

ST. PETERSBURG -- The use of the euro in trade relations between Russia and the European Union is set to increase in the coming years, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday winding up a Russia-EU summit.

"The European Union is our major trade and economic partner, and as the EU expands we will overcome difficulties in our economic relations, our turnover will increase," Putin said.

Fifty percent of Russian exports now go to Europe, compared with 8 percent to the United States.

European imports have also risen sharply.

Asked by a journalist what currency he preferred, the dollar or the euro, Putin quipped: "The ruble."

He noted that when he became president three years ago, Russia's gold and foreign currency reserves stood at $11 billion, and that now they are at "more than $61 billion and rising."

The Central Bank "has decided to keep some of the gold and currency reserves in euros," he said.

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