Inflation in Russia hits highest since early 2002

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FILE PHOTO: Russian 100-rouble banknotes are placed on a cashier's desk at a supermarket in Tara

(Reuters) – Annual inflation in Russia accelerated to 17.62% as of April 15, its highest since early 2002 and up from 17.49% a week earlier, the economy ministry said on Wednesday, as the volatile rouble sent prices soaring amid Western sanctions.

Prices on nearly everything from vegetables and sugar to clothes and smartphones have risen sharply in recent weeks after Russia on Feb. 24 began what it calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine.

But weekly inflation in Russia slowed after a big rise in the past few weeks, data from statistics service Rosstat showed on Wednesday, giving the central bank reason to consider cutting rates at its board meeting on April 29.

The central bank has said it may cut its key interest rate from 17% at the upcoming board meetings and will try not to lower inflation, which it targets at 4% in annual terms, by any means.

Weekly inflation in Russia slowed to 0.20% in the week to April 15 from 0.66% a week earlier, taking the year-to-date increase in consumer prices to 11.05%, Rosstat said.

In the same period a year ago, consumer prices rose 2.72%.

Inflation could reach between 17% and 20% this year, Alexei Kudrin, the head of Russia’s audit chamber, said last week. Analysts polled by Reuters in late March had on average forecast 2022 inflation to accelerate to 23.7%, its highest since 1999.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Angus MacSwan)