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Despite the woes of the world economy, Russia is strong and stable. That, at least, was the picture painted by President Vladimir Putin in a speech to business leaders in St Petersburg.

However those attending the annual investment forum there know that the country is not immune to outside influences.

“The biggest problem now is the growing crisis in Europe,” former Russian finance minister Alexey Kudrin told euronews. “As a consequence, Western banks are abandoning their credit programmes.

“They don’t want to invest in the Russian economy because of its big oil dependency,” Kudrin added, saying that this type of investment is more risky during a period of crisis.

Brent crude has fallen more than eight percent this week, briefly trading at its lowest in 18 months before rebounding above $90 a barrel.

The slump is bad news for energy-reliant Russia, with Brent the reference for its oil prices. This remains the case despite Putin’s expressed desire to cut the country’s dependence on energy exports.

Our correspondent in St Petersburg, Aleksander Shashkov, said: “The global instability in the world economy, mentioned by Vladimir Putin, was reflected in oil prices dropping to less than $90 a barrel. This development won’t make Russian participants at the forum in St Petersburg any more optimistic.”

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