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Russian rouble, stocks gain with Putin set to declare annexations

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This content was produced in Russia where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

MOSCOW, Sept 30 (Reuters) - The Russian rouble strengthened past 57 to the dollar on Friday and stocks opened higher as President Vladimir Putin was set to proclaim the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, marking a new escalation in Moscow's conflict with Kyiv.

Russia is due to declare the annexations after holding what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.

At 0722 GMT, the rouble was 0.7% stronger against the dollar at 56.84, close to the more than two-month high of 56.5450 hit on Thursday.

It had gained 0.4% to trade at 55.24 versus the euro . It had firmed 1.1% against the yuan to 8.034 .

The rouble has been supported by capital controls and a collapse in imports since Western sanctions were imposed over Russia's actions in Ukraine and companies left the market in droves. Geopolitical risks also remain elevated, with more U.S. and EU sanctions expected soon.

Russian stock indexes were higher.

Geopolitical pressure sent the benchmark MOEX Russian index to its lowest since Feb. 24 - the day Russia sent troops into Ukraine - on Monday, but the expected approval of energy giant Gazprom's dividend payments is a crucial driver for the market.

"An approval, as expected, of the payment should be positive both for the stock and for the market in general as Gazprom has the largest weight in indices," said BCS Global Markets.

The rouble-based MOEX index was 1.4% higher at 1,981.3 points. The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 2.4% to 1,097.9 points.

For Russian equities guide see

For Russian treasury bonds see (Reporting by Alexander Marrow Editing by William Maclean)