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Russian inflation hits 16.7% in fastest spike in over a decade

[MOSCOW] Russian inflation reached 16.7 per cent in February as lower oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine caused the biggest jump in prices over one year since 2002, the state statistics service said Thursday.

Prices rose a further 2.2 per cent in February after leaping 3.9 per cent in January - a rate unseen in 16 years - as the economy remains fragile after the ruble at the end of last year lost half its value against the dollar.

The most dramatic rise was in food prices, soaring 23.3 per cent over the past year and 3.3 per cent in February alone.

This increase resulted from Moscow's ban on European Union and US food imports in retaliation for sanctions slapped on Russia over its backing of rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Basic vegetables consumed regularly in Russian households were among the worst-affected with onions, carrots and beetroot increasing by around 10 per cent each in February.

The economy ministry is expecting inflation to peak at 17 per cent by April, while the annual rate for 2015 has been forecast at 12.2 per cent.

Russia's inflation was estimated at 11.4 per cent in 2014, the highest level since the financial crisis of 2008, after coming in at 6.5 per cent in 2013.