The importance of Russia's energy industry and its dependence on its natural resources has been shown into sharp relief by the Ukraine crisis. If there is a serious threat to its ability to export oil and gas, not only will Russia's economy come under threat – but its political stability will as well.
Economic data for the first quarter showed "weak GDP (gross domestic product), sizable private sector outflows and non-existent industrial production," as Citi economists pointed out. Inflation stood at 7.3 percent in April, suggesting a squeeze on the average Russian consumer.
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The cost of repaying its 10-year debt, as measured by its bond yield, has hovered stubbornly near the 9 percent mark, up from around 8 percent when the crisis in Ukraine began -- but it is still a vast improvement on the 12.9 percent reached during 2009's dark economic days. Analysts expect Western ratings agencies Moody's and Fitch to follow Standard & Poor's in downgrading Russian credit in July, when they conduct their scheduled reviews.
Sanctions have so far not hit any critical industries like gas – but that may change if a threatened third wave is introduced.
The situation with Ukraine may be "chronic, rather than critical," in the words of Deutsche Bank analysts, but chronic is still far from ideal. Any flaring of tensions around Ukrainian elections, scheduled for May 25, could exacerbate the situation further.