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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreign Trade Fell 17% Last Year

Russia's foreign trade turnover fell 17 percent last year, reflecting the country's economic crisis and a sharp drop in world oil prices, Russia's State Statistics Committee said Friday.

Foreign trade had been growing steadily until an economic crisis hit last summer, with the collapse of the Russian ruble and financial markets and the government's default on some debt.

Russia's overall trade in 1998 reached $133 billion. Exports were down to $73 billion, while imports totaled $60 billion.

The drop in exports was in part attributable to the drop in world oil prices. Oil accounts for one-quarter of all Russia's export revenues. But Russia still managed to maintain a trade surplus because imports fell sharply. Many imports became too expensive after the ruble lost much of its value. In August, the ruble traded at six to the dollar. By the end of the year, it hovered around 22 to the dollar.

Meanwhile, unemployment reached a new high of 12.4 percent in January, the State Statistics Committee reported Friday. That is up from 11.8 percent in December and single digits for most of last year. An estimated 9 million people were jobless in January out of a total work force of 72.2 million people, a committee spokeswoman said.

The State Statistics Committee has been reworking its unemployment numbers to better reflect the real number of jobless people in Russia, but figures are still thought to be lower than the true unemployment rate.

In addition, many of those who are officially employed are in fact also out of work, as idle factories and troubled companies send scores of employees on forced vacations.

Also, visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der told President Boris Yeltsin on Friday that Germany was willing to back Russia in its dealings with international financial institutions.

German officials have said they would consider restructuring some of Moscow's Soviet-era debt, a sign that Western countries are ready to seek solutions to Russia's huge debts, which the country cannot afford to repay on time.