Prosecutors Will Investigate Cartel Behavior in 3 Sectors

Prosecutors will investigate suspected food, fertilizer and fuel cartels as the government tries to rein in inflation, currently at the quickest pace since 2002, the Prosecutor General's Office said Tuesday.

Prosecutors will fight "producer-price fixing, the excessive use of middleman companies and speculation on exchanges," the office said in a statement on its web site. Those practices threaten citizens' constitutional rights and the "food security" of the state, the statement added.

High fuel and food prices propelled the inflation rate to 15.1 percent in June, the highest since December 2002. The World Bank has warned that failure to act on price growth soon may force the government to take steps that would also curb economic growth in the future. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is pushing his Cabinet to probe instances of price collusion among oil refiners and food producers.

Prosecutors will coordinate their investigations with the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, the Federal Customs Service, the Federal Service for Financial Markets, the Transportation Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry, the statement said.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service should "wake up" and help "destroy the fuel monopoly at airports," Putin said July 11. Jet fuel prices surged 70 percent from November to June, making Russia the most expensive country for aviation fuel in the world, he said.

The service said July 15 that it had opened cases against LUKoil, Gazprom Neft, Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz and TNK-BP, claiming they set "monopolistically high prices" on the domestic diesel and jet fuel market.