Russia’s economic authorities have clashed over inflation and growth forecasts in rare public displays of discord at a flagship forum in Saint Petersburg.

The annual Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), often dubbed the Russian Davos, is taking place against a background of Western sanctions on Moscow over Ukraine.

“There’s no question for the moment of a risk of deflation,” Interfax news agency quoted Alexey Zabotkin, deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, as saying on Friday.

“For the moment, we have an increase in prices of 16.7 percent year on year,” he was quoted as saying, referring to annual inflation.

However, Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov disagreed.

“We are seeing deflation for the fifth consecutive week,” he said, adding it was “not necessary to measure inflation year on year”.

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“We are really slipping into a deflationary spiral, we must take that seriously.”

Russia’s central bank on the one hand, and the ministries of economic development or finance on the other, are some of the only Russian institutions to occasionally disagree publicly.

On Thursday, former economy minister and current Kremlin adviser Maxim Oreshkin had also voiced disagreement with central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina.

Oreshkin sharply took issue with what he sees as an excessively pessimistic growth forecast made in April by the head of the national audit office, showing GDP slumping by more than 10 percent this year.

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“I have the feeling that (those who make these forecasts) either want to harm the country, or don’t believe in their own country, in its power,” said Oreshkin, who only foresees a five-percent contraction.

“We are a strong country, we are a strong people, we can resolve the problems.”

Nabiullina hit back, saying: “To look for culprits among those who do forecasts is the last thing you should do.”

“In the uncertain conditions we find ourselves in, to consider that they are enemies or non-believers is quite simply absolutely wrong.”

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The Kremlin insists that the country is holding up against the Western-imposed sanctions and that Europe and the United States are suffering more than Russia as a result of the reprisals, despite it being largely cut off financially and in trade terms from the rest of the world.

 

 

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