MOSCOW, Nov 24, 2014 (AFP) - Russia is losing up to $140 billion (113 billion euros) a year because of Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict and plunging oil prices, but President Vladimir Putin has dismissed the economic damage as "not fatal".
"We are losing around $40 billion per year due to geopolitical sanctions," Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in a speech at an economic forum in Moscow, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency.
Siluanov added that falling oil prices were also causing Russia economic damage of "some $90 to $100 billion per year".
The European Union and the United States have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict, sending the ruble plunging and inflation soaring.
The embargoes targeting Russia's key energy, defence and finance sectors have been compounded by the sliding crude prices.
But Putin insisted that the falling ruble would only hurt the Russian economy "to an extent, but not (cause) fatal" damage.
In Sunday's interview with TASS news agency, he stood firm over the Ukraine issue, saying that Russia is "right" and that its "strength comes from the truth".
Putin also rubbished a Western blacklist of Russian officials and businessmen from his inner circle, saying the decision to impose sanctions on those individuals in an attempt to hurt him was based on a "false premise".
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday accused the West of attempting to achieve "regime change" in Russia through sanctions aimed at destroying the economy and rousing public protests.
Russia has retaliated by imposing an embargo on most food products from the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway and the European Union. Food prices have noticeably risen in recent weeks.
Nevertheless Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Monday that Russia was still on target for the predicted 0.5 percent growth in 2014, quoted by RIA Novosti.
- 'I say look at the oil prices' -
Russia's finance minister on Monday sought to play down the impact of sanctions on the country's economic woes, saying crude prices were the key determinant.
"The oil price has fallen 30 percent since the beginning of the year. By the way, the ruble has also fallen the same 30 percent... I say look at the oil prices. However they behave, the ruble exchange rate will too."
The ruble has fallen to a series of record lows against the dollar and euro during the conflict in east Ukraine before rallying a little this month after the European Union decided not to impose yet another round of sanctions.
On Monday at around 1100 GMT, the ruble was trading at 44.80 to the dollar and 55.54 to the euro.
Russia is likely to record capital outflows of $130 billion, Siluanov said, as citizens and businesses hedge against the falling ruble by converting their savings in the Russian currency to foreign ones.
"Sanctions are undoubtedly a serious threat to the Russian economy. But Russia, with or without sanctions, would have experienced the crisis it is going through today," said Igor Nikolayev, head of the FBK Strategic Analysis Institute.
Energy minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that Russia was considering cutting its oil production in a bid to shore up prices.
He said that Russia did not have the technical means to quickly lower and raise production like Saudi Arabia but that the government was studying the "expediency of such methods."
A major producer of crude oil, Russia is not a member of the OPEC oil producers cartel, which is to discuss later in the week whether to cut output.
OPEC's poorer members, led by Venezuela and Ecuador, have called publicly for a cut in output, while Iran has also hinted at a need to reduce production. But the cartel's Gulf members, led by kingpin Saudi Arabia, are rejecting such calls unless they are guaranteed market share, according to analysts.
Kommersant business daily on Monday cited a Russian government source saying that Venezuelan foreign minister Rafael Ramirez had suggested cutting production when he visited Moscow last week.
"We had thought about it before but it did not gain much support. The situation changed last week," the source said.
Russia gets around half of its revenues from oil profits. Its budget for next year, passed by the lower house of parliament on Friday, is based on an oil price of $96 per barrel.
Crude prices have however fallen below $80.
"It's still too early to talk about the losses suffered by Russia over the year due to the fall in oil prices," said analyst Nikolayev. "But in my view it risks being dramatic."
"If the price per barrel falls even by one dollar, that represents 1.25 billion euros less for the state," he said.