Russian Industrial Production Falls 16.9% in April

Automobile manufacturing plunged 55.9%

Compared to 2008, Russian industrial production in April was 16.9% lower, the state statistics agency said on May 19.

Industrial production dropped 8.1% from March to April, according to the same report.

Production has fallen every month this year as Russia's once-booming economy has been hit hard by the crisis, despite initial claims by government officials that the country would be protected from global turmoil.

Among the hardest-hit sectors are automobile manufacturing, where production plunged 55.9% in the year to April, and construction, reflected in a 34.7% fall in cement production.

Production of natural gas -- one of Russia's main exports -- dropped 24.3%, as customers in Europe have scaled back their consumption amid the global crisis.

Russia's economy has been hurt by falling prices for oil, gas and other commodities and many of its billionaire industrialists have found themselves unable to pay back massive debts they took on during the boom years.

Last month the World Bank said the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a grouping of Russia and 11 former Soviet republics, would experience "the largest reversal of economic fortune" of any region amid the global crisis.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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