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Russian parliament passes record budget, boosting defence spending and shoring up support for Putin

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Moscow, Nov 17 (AP) The lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, on Friday approved its biggest-ever federal budget which will increase spending by around 25 per cent in 2024, with record amounts going to defence.

Defence spending is expected to overtake social spending next year for the first time in modern Russian history, at a time when the Kremlin is eager to shore up support for President Vladimir Putin as Russia prepares for a presidential election in March.

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Record low unemployment, higher wages and targeted social spending should help the Kremlin ride out the domestic impact of pivoting the economy to a war footing, but could pose a problem in the long term, analysts say.

Russian lawmakers said the budget for 2024-2026 was developed specifically to fund the military and mitigate the impact of “17,500 sanctions” on Russia, the chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said.

“In these difficult conditions, we have managed to adopt a budget that will not only allocate the necessary funds for our country’s defense, but which will also provide all the required funds to guarantee the state’s social obligations,” First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Alexander Zhukov said, according to Russian state news agency Tass.

The Russian Communist Party voted against the budget because it provides “low pensions” and not enough financial support for elderly people, Tass said. The budget will now be passed to the Federation Council — the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament — for approval before it is signed by President Vladimir Putin.

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The draft budget “is about getting the war sorted in Ukraine and about being ready for a military confrontation with the West in perpetuity”, Richard Connolly, an expert on Russia’s military and economy at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has said.

“This amounts to the wholesale remilitarization of Russian society,” he said.

Russia’s finance ministry said it expects spending to reach 36.66 trillion rubles (around USD 411 billion) in 2024 with a predicted budget deficit of 0.8 per cent of Russia’s gross domestic product.

Part of the Russian budget is secret as the Kremlin tries to conceal its military plans and sidestep scrutiny of its war in Ukraine. Independent business journalists Farida Rustamova and Maksim Tovkaylo said on their Telegram channel Faridaily that around 39 per cent of all federal spending will go to defense and law enforcement in 2024. (AP)

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