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By
AFP
Published
Aug 21, 2009
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Putin pledges $1 billion for diamond industry

By
AFP
Published
Aug 21, 2009

MOSCOW (AFP) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Friday 21 August pledged one billion dollars to help Russia's embattled diamond industry withstand the global economic crisis as he visited a remote mining region.


Putin examines a chunk of uncut diamonds at a diamond mine in the Siberian city of Mirny - Photo: AFP

"We have no doubts that everything will be restored," Putin told workers as he visited state diamond monopoly Alrosa's mine near the far northern town of Mirny, in Siberia.

The government will help restore demand by earmarking as much as 35 billion rubles (1.1 billion dollars, 770 million euros) in state funds this year, he said in televised comments. He did not provide specifics on how the money would be spent.

"I believe that the total amount of support for the industry this year should be 30 billion to 35 billion rubles," he said, speaking at a meeting with government officials later.

"It will not be easy to do it during the financial crisis but we'll do it," he added.

Demand for diamonds has plunged amid the global financial meltdown, along with other key Russian exports such as oil and gas.

To support the diamond industry, the state had already increased the amount it spends on purchases of precious stones fourfold, to 14.5 billion rubles from 3.7 billion rubles, Putin said, adding, "I think it's not enough."

He also said the state should help Alrosa restructure its debt to domestic and foreign companies.

Putin attended the company's official launching ceremony of an underground mine near the town of Mirny. Television footage showed the casually-dressed prime minister looking at diamonds with a magnifying glass.

He also stopped at a wagon overflowing with rocks and looked particularly pleased when officials told him that one of the rocks he picked contained a diamond.

Putin went to Yakutia before his visit to the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant in southern Siberia, where explosions and flooding on Monday 17 August left at least 26 dead and 49 missing.

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