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Russian government approves lower 2017 budget deficit of 2.1 pct/GDP

MOSCOW, May 18 (Reuters) - Russia's government has approved lowering this year's planned budget deficit to 2.1 percent of gross domestic product, as proposed by the finance ministry, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Thursday.

The finance ministry on Wednesday suggested cutting the 2017 budget deficit by 829 billion roubles ($14.34 billion) to 1.92 trillion roubles because it now expects higher budget revenues than it had previously.

Russia had initially targeted a 2017 deficit of 2.75 trillion roubles, or 3.2 percent of GDP.

But the finance ministry now expects oil prices to average more this year than the $40 a barrel it used for its initial calculations, and the government has turned more bullish on Russia's growth prospects.

The lower budget deficit still needs to be approved by Russia's parliament and President Vladimir Putin, who has called for a balanced budget.

($1 = 57.8199 roubles) (Reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by Larry King)