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Putin: Russian economy is in check

Russian energy companies moving closer to emerging Asia.

By Daniel J. Graeber

BEIJING, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said from an economic summit in Beijing there'd be no increase in state deficits despite sanctions on Russian energy companies.

Low oil prices for a Russian economy dependent on exports is exacerbating an already problematic situation brought on by sanctions targeting Russian energy companies. Last week, the Russian currency traded at an all-time low against the U.S. dollar.

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The European Commission in an annual report said the Russian economy was entering a period of stagflation. But Putin said from the sidelines of the conference for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation the Russian economy would be held in check.

"There will be no growth in the state deficit," he said Monday. "We plan on holding it at a safe controlled level of no less than 15 percent of the gross domestic product."

The president said he'd draw on reserves accumulated in sovereign funds and improve its credit ratings in an effort to draw in more foreign investors.

In October, Russia's credit rating was downgraded by international ratings agency Moody's.

Sanctions were enacted in response to Russia's reaction to the move by Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, to move closer to the European Union. Russian oil company Rosneft and gas giant Gazprom were among the companies targeted by Western powers.

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When British energy company BP released its third quarter results in October, it said the depreciation of the Russian currency in part had a "significant impact" on its financial performance. From its ties to Rosneft, BP said net income was down more than 80 percent to $110 million year-on-year.

From the sidelines of the APEC conference, Rosneft officials signed agreements to examine the feasibility of building an oil refinery in northern China through a partnership with the Chinese National Petroleum Corp. On Monday, Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin said the separate sale of a 10 percent stake in ZAO Vankorneft, a Rosneft subsidiary operating northeast Siberia, was emblematic of the "systematic development of the large-scale cooperation with our Chinese partners, including the upstream area in the Russian federation."

Russian energy companies have expanded their focus to include growing Asian economies, where energy demand is growing. That move is mirrored by the effort in Europe to break the Russian grip on the energy sector.

Gazprom during the weekend signed agreements to delivery gas to China from what it calls the Western Route.

"Supplies will go from fields in West Siberia, the resource base we are using for supplies to Europe," Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller said.

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Gas deliveries of are expected by 2019. The deal includes a take-or-pay clause, meaning Chinese partners are obligated to a set volume of gas regardless of actual levels of use.

In May, Gazprom and CNPC signed a 30-year sales agreement that calls for 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year through another pipeline, the Power of Siberia.

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