Russia restricts budget data to evade Western sanctions

Russia will no longer be as forthcoming about its budget spending as it attempts to shield the country from further sanctions, the Finance Ministry said Tuesday.

In a statement, the ministry said it will partially restrict the information about budget spending it makes public in response to the “negative consequences” of sanctions on the Russian economy.

Boosted by high energy prices for Russia’s vital oil and gas exports, the country’s budget surplus came in at 1.49 trillion rubles ($26 billion) for the first five months of the year, Finance Ministry data showed.

According to the budget plan, Russia is forecast to earn 25 trillion rubles and to spend 23.7 trillion rubles this year, yet officials have already warned that the country is set to spend every spare rouble to shield its economy and citizens from Western sanctions imposed after Moscow sent troops to Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin has already pledged billions in fresh social payments, including pensions, and the Finance Ministry plans to tap its $198-billion-large National Wealth Fund to support key state enterprises hit by sanctions.

The Energy Ministry has restricted access to its monthly oil and gas output data, a number of big companies were not allowed to disclose their financial statements and the central bank has also limited some data releases.

In the latest move, the government has proposed to make the size of Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves – now disclosed publicly on a weekly basis – a state secret, in another step to protect the country from sanctions.

“The sanctions against Russia differ in the way they work and degree of the negative consequences,” the Finance Ministry said, explaining Tuesday’s move. “This will help to minimize the risk of new sanctions.”

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