Economy offers boost for Yeltsin

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The Independent Online
The first indication that Russia is emerging from its prolonged slump came yesterday in new figures released in Moscow. The country has seen the first month-on-month increase in its gross domestic product since it set foot along the rocky path towards economic reform in 1991, officials said.

Its GDP in April grew by 2 per cent on the preceding month, according to the chairman of the state statistics committee, Yuri Yurkov. His announcement came a month before the presidential election, fuelling speculation over whether government figures are being manipulated in the hope of winning votes.

But if confirmed by later statistics, it will be impressive evidence that, after five years of plunging living standards, lower production and growing unemployment, the Russian economy is finally stabilising and beginning to grow. Inflation for April was also down to a record post-reform low of 2.2 per cent.

Whether such signs of revival will percolate through to the electorate in time to bolster Mr Yeltsin's chances is questionable - the first round of the election is only a month away.

But it will please the International Monetary Fund, which recently granted Russia a new loan of $10.2bn.

Blow to democrats, page 8