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RECESSION POSSIBLE FOR RUSSIA

A former finance minister says increasing spending isn't prudent.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - President Vladimir V. Putin was all swagger last week at the annual economic forum here, effectively wagging a finger at Europe over its fiscal problems. In the forum's keynote address, Putin boasted of Russia's relatively low debt burden, balanced budget and "fiscal discipline."

But the man largely credited with putting Russia in this enviable position, the former minister of finance, Aleksei L. Kudrin, warned at a news conference on Saturday that Russia was in danger of falling into a recession and that Putin should delay much of the increased social and military spending that he announced during his recent campaign for the presidency.

Kudrin, who was ousted from the government last year after protesting rising military spending, said he listened to presentations and speeches at the forum, where Russian officials typically woo foreign investors, and heard expressions of "worry" and discussions of "worst-case scenarios."

With Europe apparently slithering into recession this summer, Russia is now more likely than not to suffer a crisis of its own this year, he said.

Banks and investors are already pulling money out of Russia, he said in a question-and-answer session with journalists at the close of the three-day St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, while indications from Europe worsen by the day.

During this year's presidential campaign, Putin announced higher wages, better maternity leave benefits and greatly expanded military spending in the coming decade.

"We need to look again at all programs being launched or expanded," Kudrin said. "Even our current expenditures will be difficult to meet."

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