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Russian minister says strong ruble could hurt Russian businesses

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As the ruble strengthens to levels not seen in seven years, Russia’s minister of economic development warned Wednesday that the country’s businesses could suffer if the trend persists.

The ruble hit all-time lows in the first weeks after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in late February, dropping as much as 50 percent, to 150 against the US dollar. It then began recovering, and this month has reached its highest exchange rate since May 2015.

The Russian Central Bank’s official exchange rate Wednesday was 52.9 to the dollar. Although the rate is seen by some as a sign that Russia is weathering Western sanctions, the strong ruble makes Russian exports more expensive.

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“I think my colleagues will confirm that the profitability of many industries, even export-oriented, has become negative at the current exchange rate,” Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

“If such a situation will last for several more months, I think many enterprises may come to the idea not only of curtailing investment processes, but also of the need to adjust current production plans and reduce production volumes,” he said.

Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina this month suggested that Russia should broadly reorient its economy away from relying on revenue from exports.

Analysts say the ruble’s strength reflects high global prices for oil and natural gas and that wide-ranging sanctions mean Russia is buying fewer imports.

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