AP Interview: Russian economy boss says sanctions no longer bite

PARIS (AP) — Russia’s economy minister, a rising star in Kremlin politics, said Tuesday that his country is no longer suffering from U.S. and EU sanctions, and sees better prospects for future trade in Asia instead.

Maxim Oreshkin told The Associated Press that the Russian economy is on track to grow at least 2 percent this year — a first after 2014, when the economy sank into recession driven by sinking oil prices and sanctions over the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine.

Oreshkin slammed new U.S. sanctions imposed last month as “interfering” with European trade, but shrugged off the economic impact of the measures, saying that Russia’s trade with the U.S. remains “much much smaller” than with European and Asian partners.

He wouldn’t comment on widespread Russian disappointment that the Trump administration hasn’t been as friendly toward Moscow as many expected, and instead stressed that his country has “turned the corner” after the recession’s blow thanks to domestic reforms.

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“There was a negative effect, it was a big one, but it is already behind us. … Of course without sanctions it will be even better,” he said in an interview in Paris after meeting with French energy, pharmaceutical and other executives active in Russia — who are also eager for sanctions to be lifted.

Oreshkin said Russia’s government is building budgets based on the assumptions that the European and American sanctions will remain in place, and “we should concentrate on what we are doing domestically,” on what reforms are working and what are still needed.

After unusually strong second-quarter economic growth of 2.5 percent, he forecast “roughly the same pace through the end of the year,” and overall growth of 2 percent or 2.1 percent for the year. However, the Russian economy remains heavily dependent on oil and gas, and efforts to diversify have…

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