Russia considering sanctions busters

More powers for Russian President Putin could counteract U.S. sanctions, the State Duma speaker said.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 15, 2018 at 8:41 AM
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May 15 (UPI) -- With its oil and gas sector under pressure from sanctions, the speaker of Russia's State Duma, the lower house of its national legislature, said legislation could easily protect national interests.

"We are granting far-reaching powers to our president and the Russian government, so that our country, our economy and our jobs are protected," Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying.

U.S. and European sanctions against Russia reach deep into the country's energy sector. Sanctions imposed by Washington in response to Russian activity in Ukraine targeted Igor Sechin, the head of top Russian oil producer Rosneft.

More than 60 percent of total Russian exports are oil and natural gas, which combine for about 30 percent of the gross domestic product. Volodin said the sanctions pressure from Washington is "thoroughly inimical," hitting more than 400 legal entities and 200 Russian citizens.

"We will do everything that is possible to protect the interests of our state and security, as well as guarantee the rights and freedoms of our citizens," he said.

Russia is party to an effort by the members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to drain the surplus from the five-year average in global crude oil inventories through coordinated production cuts. That effort, coupled with global economic growth and geopolitical risk, has pulled the price of oil from below $30 per barrel in early 2016 to more than $75 per barrel for the price of Brent crude oil in 2018.

The average price for Urals crude oil, the Russian benchmark, is up 7.8 percent from the fourth quarter and is 24.8 percent higher year-over-year. Rosneft reported first quarter revenue of $30.9 billion, up 0.8 percent from the fourth quarter and 22.1 percent higher than the first quarter 2017. The company attributed the gain in large part to higher crude oil prices.

Speaking at a meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin said regional GDP grew by 1.8 percent last year. Economists at OPEC expect the Russian economy to see GDP grow 1.8 percent for this year.

The U.S. Treasury Department in April opened a safety valve by offering some sanctions relief to Russian aluminum producer United Co. RUSAL, the second-largest company of its kind outside of China.

Putin during his meeting Monday said tighter regional trade relations could support further economic growth.

"This week an agreement is to be signed in Astana on trade and economic cooperation with China, in addition to an interim free trade agreement with Iran," he said.

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