Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has called the introduction of a Russian rouble on Belarussian territory an "extremely important question and a matter of principle from the point of view of foreign policy and further economic development." "Political gambling with currency is absolutely out of the question," he told a conference on Wednesday, denying all statements that said introduction of a Russian rouble as a single currency unit could undermine the sovereignty of Belarus. "No one here tried to exchange Belarussian sovereignty," he declared.
He stressed Belarus held nothing against money printed in Russia, but said it was a matter of principle when it came to emission rules. He suggested setting up a supranational bank supervision board, in which both states would hold equal positions.
In the meantime, Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov told the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Wednesday that Russia and Belarus had closely approached the introduction of a single currency unit on January 1, 2005.
According to him, Russia and Belarus have the closest relationship of all countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The fact that the economies of Russia and Belarus are getting closer makes the two countries more competitive internationally, he said.
On Tuesday, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of Belarus Vladimir Senko had reported that non-cash Russian roubles were being introduced in Belarus on July 1, 2003. "From this day on, Belarussian companies and enterprises will be able to use roubles to pay each other for goods and services," the banker had said. Officials at the National Bank of Belarus were convinced that both countries were "ready to use a single currency unit."