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Belarus President Threatens to Expel Foreign Media

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko (file photo)

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko (file photo)

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened Friday to expel some foreign media from the country after accusing them of providing alarmist coverage during the country's currency and financial crisis.

President Lukashenko reserved his harshest criticism for Russian media, saying they were creating hysteria around the economic situation.

Earlier this week, panicky shoppers in Belarus were buying up consumer goods and scarce food supplies as fast as possible, after a 36-percent devaluation of the ruble failed to halt a slide in the national currency's value.

On Friday, Standard and Poor's Financial Ratings Service put Belarus' foreign-currency debt on CreditWatch negative -- meaning a downgrade in its rating is likely if Belarus is unable to secure external funding for its large deficit.

Weeks of economic crisis have prompted many Belarusians to buy foreign currency to protect themselves against the ruble's plunge.

The government announced on Tuesday the official exchange rate would be 4,930 rubles for $1 as of Wednesday, compared to the previous rate of 3,155 rubles. The statement triggered an immediate shift in the ruble's unofficial or black-market price, which as of Wednesday stood at about 6,500 rubles per dollar.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, Bloomberg and Reuters.