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White House: Sanctions, oil leave Russia damaged

Obama and Putin set for historic meeting next week at the United Nations.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hear U.S. concerns about eastern Ukrainian rebels. The White House says Russian isolation and low crude oil prices creating major economic problems. File photo by David Silpa/UPI
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to hear U.S. concerns about eastern Ukrainian rebels. The White House says Russian isolation and low crude oil prices creating major economic problems. File photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Though low crude oil prices are playing a part, the White House said Russia's refusal to meet international expectations is leading to economic decline.

U.S. President Barack Obama is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the United Nations next week. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Russian intervention in Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels continue their operations, will top the agenda.

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"Russia's international isolation and their continued refusal to abide by basic international norms, particularly when it comes to these combined Russian separatist forces, has taken a significant toll on their economy," Earnest said during his regular press briefing Thursday.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control in August targeted Ukrainian and Russian business leaders, including Russia gas trader Gennady Timchenko and Boris Rotenberg, a close associate of the Russian president.

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Earnest said that, in 2013, the Russian economy was about 12 percent the size of the United States' and it should end the year about half that size. The International Monetary Fund expects Russia to linger in recession, with the economy on pace to contract by up to 4 percent.

In early September, the Bank of Russia said it would keep its key interest rate at 11 percent annually because of higher inflationary risks and "persistent risks of considerable economy cooling."

Putin earlier this week called on policymakers to outline measures to overcome recession "and to considerably decrease the federal budget's dependence on oil prices."

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Asked whether there was any U.S. leverage over crude oil prices, Earnest said only that reduced consumption and increased production was influencing the market.

"The fact is it's influenced by such a wide variety of things, but there's no denying that the low price of energy on the global markets has also had a negative impact on the Russian economy," he said.

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