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Why Russia is more confident: Finance Minister

We're always open to new markets: Russian Fin Min

Russia's economy has been through a series of seismic shocks in the past year – but there are increasing reasons to be optimistic as the amount of money being pulled out of the country slows, according to the country's Finance Minister, Anton Siluanov.

"Capital outflows have decreased as people started to sell their dollars to buy rubles," Siluanov said in an interview with CNBC.

"We also foresee a slowdown in capital outflows in the current quarter by 50 percent compared to the first quarter."

In the past year, Russia has been plunged into an economic mire by the low oil price, sanctions imposed on the country following the conflict in Ukraine, and the resulting high inflation and devaluation of the ruble.

The country is expected to fall into recession this year. Russian businesses are running into increased pressure when doing business overseas – as billionaire oil investor Mikhail Fridman recently found out to his cost.

Anton Siluanov
Andrey Rudakov I Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fridman's investment vehicle, L1 Energy, chaired by former BP chief executive Lord Browne, has bought North Sea oil assets as part of its $7-billion purchase of German oil company DEA from parent RWE. The U.K. government has now given the company three months to sell off the assets, citing worries about future sanctions against Fridman.

While there have been plenty of "informal" sanctions against Russian businesses by Western companies worried about future penalties, this is one of the first to be made public in this way.

The next test of how much Russian business has been locked out of the international marketplace could come later this year, if one of the big Russian corporates due to refinance debt tries to do so on international capital markets.

"We see that yields are going down, and are almost at pre-crisis levels. So the first step, as we see it - our corporates will borrow funds from capital markets, and we will monitor the situation and possibly we shall not refuse to take into account external borrowing in our plans," Siluanov told CNBC.

There are some grounds for his optimism, as the ruble is the year's best-performing currency to date (from a very low base) and there has been a rally in Russia's dollar-denominated stock markets, following a small oil price rally.

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle

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