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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia to Shut Trade Missions

The Russian government has announced plans to close down 35 foreign trade missions, but it was unclear Friday whether the decision was primarily a budget-cutting move or part of a ministerial turf war.

Under a decree issued Thursday, 35 trade representative offices will be shut over the next two to five months, with most of their operations to be consolidated in the commercial offices of Russian embassies. Most of the missions are in Asian, South American and African countries, including such dynamic growing economies as Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Foreign Trade Minister Oleg Davydov, quoted in Saturday's Izvestia, said the move was initiated by his ministry and that the closures could save up to $20 million annually. The offices, worth an estimated $500 million to $600 million, would be turned over to the State Property Committee, he said.

The reductions bring the number of offices abroad to 47 from 130 just two years ago, with another 25 projected to be scrapped.

But Mikhail Demurin, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said the Foreign Ministry's recommendation was in keeping with a presidential decree that stressed the need for the ministry to control Russia's international affairs.