Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to reassure ordinary Russians about the state of the country’s economy.
Last year inflation was running at a crippling 12.9 percent not helped by an embargo on food imports from Europe, which is pushing up prices.
The rouble is also falling.
Putin played a well worn card: “I hope and I am almost sure that this economic crisis is a temporary situation and that with markets being filled with locally-produced foodstuff, prices will be going down as well.”
Last year GDP fell by some -3.7 percent, with another decline expected for 2016, Putin searched for the positive: “The situation has not been fixed yet, but there is a positive trend. The gross domestic product declined by -3.7 percent in 2015. This year the government expects the economy to continue to decline slightly.”
Not everyone agrees by how far the Russian economy will shrink; the IMF says -1.8 percent, the Russian Central Bank -1.5 percent and the Russian Economy ministry, closest to the Kremlin, 0.3 percent.
A key question is how long can the Russian economy survive with oil prices bumping along at $44 a barrel, Russia has agreed a output freeze with Saudi Arabia ahead of Sunday’s crucial OPEC meeting in Doha.
Iran, freed from sanctions on oil production described any freeze as “ridiculous.”