Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 11:16 UK

Russian economic slide worsening

Russina people at a soup kitchen
There are concerns Russia's worsening economic situation is adding to poverty

Russia's economy contracted sharply in April - shrinking by 10.5% from the same month a year ago - Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach has said.

The data came as officials were quoted as saying Russia would have a budget deficit equivalent to 9% of GDP in 2009, from an earlier 7.4% prediction.

Russia's economy had been growing thanks to high oil prices, which peaked at about $147 a barrel last summer.

But since then, the price of oil, a key export, has fallen by more than half.

The sharp drop in the economy in April came after Federal State Statistics figures showed that, on a year-on-year basis, output dropped 9.5% in the first three months of the year.

'Tough regime'

Industrial output has slowed in the wake of the global economic slowdown, and investors have withdrawn from Russia.

There are fears that poverty levels are rising - with Russian churches reporting a rise in the number of people seeking free meals as a result of the global financial crisis

On Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave downbeat comments on the country's economy - though he avoided giving precise statistics on how bad it had become.

However, he called for sharp cutbacks in government spending in a "shift to a regime of tough economising of budget funds".

Mr Medvedev also hit out at corrupt officials for "sucking" away state funds.

Russia's regions should be less reliant on Moscow and be prepared to fend more for themselves, he added.

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