He said that anti-crisis aid for companies in strategic sectors could force the Russian National Welfare Fund to review financing of certain projects, according to local media.

Siluanov predicted a budget deficit of just over 3 percent in 2015, in the event the economy should contract by 4 percent.

He also acknowledged that the finance ministry will submit a proposal to the Duma to trim the budget by 10 percent, even though he is aware that will not be sufficient to bring down the deficit.

As for the ruble, Siluanov forecast that the national currency would strengthen in the first quarter and predicted a rate of 51 rubles per dollar in 2015.

The Russian minister added that ruble has now stabilised with oil prices reaching USD 60 per barrel; however he noted that ruble will not reach the rate of USD 30 again, insisting that stability of the Russian currency is what matters.

Siluanov made it clear the government does not rule out intervening in the domestic foreign exchange market with foreign currency purchases if that is necessary to strengthen the ruble, as it did recently, when it sold off USD1 billion of its holdings.

Meanwhile, the government expects oil prices to stabilise at $60 per barrel, which will lead the Russian economy into recession, since exports of oil and gas account for half of the country's Gross Domestic Product.

The Russian budget for 2014 was calculated on the basis of oil being priced at $96 per barrel and an exchange rate of 37.5 rubles per dollar.

The ministry of finance is therefore hoping to balance its 2017 budget based the assumption that by then oil will be fetching USD 70 per barrel.


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