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Various German media outlets (including the Tagesschau) have reported, that the Russian state has made a 23 billion Euro surplus in the first half of 2022.

Despite the sanctions, Russia achieved a budget surplus of around 20 billion euros in the first half of the year.

According to official figures, Russia achieved a budget surplus worth more than 20 billion euros in the first half of 2022 despite the war and sanctions. In total, the plus is 1.374 trillion rubles (about 23 billion euros) thanks to increased revenues, the Finance Ministry announced according to the Interfax news agency.

— English translation from the Tagesschau link

This is supposed to be due to increased oil and gas prices but the numbers are from the Russian state. Do the amounts of oil and gas exported from Russia support these claims?

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  • 1
    As it stands, there are three questions here: 1) Did Russia make a €20 billion surplus in the first half of 2022? 2) Is Russia's current surplus due to increased oil and gas prices? 3) Are sanctions hurting Russia? You need to pick one of the three, and include a direct quote of that specific claim for us to examine. The third claim is probably off-topic however you word it, because it's largely a matter of opinion and interpretation, rather than facts that can be confirmed or contradicted. The first is most factual, but perhaps least interesting as worded (is that a big number? I've no idea).
    – IMSoP
    Jul 15 at 11:58
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    @IMSoP: I removed the opinion and focussed on the factual claim. Should address Fizz's complaint about nebulousness too.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 15 at 15:30
  • @Fizz: Note the claim (if correctly translated) is about a budget surplus (presumably for the government), which is entirely separate from a trade surplus. Jul 15 at 15:44
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    The implication is that the sanctions aren't working, but the claim alone cannot show that. Is it unusual for Russia to have a budget surplus at this time of the year? If they had a 40 billion Euro surplus the same time in 2021 the implication is reversed. I can claim a budget surplus the day before my bills come due, are they deferring paying the bills to pad their accounts?
    – Schwern
    Jul 15 at 20:54
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    @Fizz - And you can always trust Putin to tell the truth, right? Jul 16 at 3:17

1 Answer 1

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It is plausible based on trade data. Last year Russia's state budget was made by some 45% from energy exports. Prices for those are some 60% higher than last year, while in the first half of this year the reduction in exports volume from Russia has been pretty negligible overall. The US probably had the strictest ban, but they hardly import Russian energy products directly. You can read the whole analysis in the NYT based on a CREA report

In 2021, revenue from oil and gas alone made up 45 percent of Russia’s federal budget, according to the International Energy Agency. [...]

Russia earned what is very likely a record 93 billion euros in revenue from exports of oil, gas and coal in the first 100 days of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, according to data analyzed by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a research organization based in Helsinki, Finland. About two-thirds of those earnings, the equivalent of about $97 billion, came from oil, and most of the remainder from natural gas. [...]

The research found Russia’s export prices for fossil fuels have been on average around 60 percent higher than last year, even accounting for the fact that Russian oil is fetching about 30 percent below international market prices. [...]

As for volumes, not much change in the first 100 days.

The European Union made most progress on reducing its imports of natural gas from Russia, buying 23 percent less in the first 100 days of the invasion than the same period the previous year. Still, income at Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas giant, remained about twice as high as the year before, thanks to higher gas prices, the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air found.

The European Union also reduced its imports of Russian crude oil, which declined 18 percent in May. But that dip was made up by India and the United Arab Emirates, leading to no net change in Russia’s oil export volumes, the research showed. India has become a significant importer of Russian crude oil, buying 18 percent of the country’s exports over the 100-day period.

The United States has made a dent in Russia’s earnings, banning all Russian fossil fuel imports. Still, the United States is importing refined oil products from countries like the Netherlands and India that most likely contain Russian crude, a loophole for oil from Russia to make its way to America.

This figure from the report itself is probably the most useful (alas it only covers a single month):

enter image description here

That's some 250 million euros extra income per day, compared to last year. Assuming they were close to break even in their state budget last year (I haven't really checked) times 100 days or so would give an extra 25 billion euros. So that's already more than their claimed budget surplus.

However, since you're talking about Russia's budget surplus rather than trade balance, the exact surplus can't really be confirmed from external sources, which don't know any better how much Russia's government is really spending in their own country (or war). (One would also have to take into account the 10% or so reduction in retail activity [seemingly a few months in a row], which would result in some VAT income decrease etc.)


For whatever that's worth (since the OP wants non-Russian sources, but I'm being egged on in comments that the translation in original article may be wrong), TASS says

ST. PETERSBURG, June 16. /TASS/. The Ministry of Finance estimates the federal budget deficit at the end of the current year at 2% of GDP, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Thursday. [...]

According to the minister, the current federal budget surplus is rather conditional, it currently reaches 840 bln rubles ($14.44 bln). "In general, we have a budget surplus, a conditional surplus, because all spending will go towards Q4, when we have to use all resources," the Siluanov said.

Siluanov added that about 3-4 trillion rubles ($51.59-68.79 bln) from the National Wealth Fund of Russia will be allocated to finance the budget deficit.

OTOH just two days before, Reuters wrote:

Russia will start restricting public access to some government data in an attempt to protect the country from additional sanctions, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

In a statement, the ministry said it will partially restrict the information about budget spending it makes public in response to the "negative consequences" of sanctions on the Russian economy.

Boosted by high energy prices for Russia’s vital oil and gas exports, the country’s budget surplus came in at 1.49 trillion roubles ($26 billion) for the first five months of the year, finance ministry data showed.

So yeah, off by $11 billion in two days. And

The energy ministry has restricted access to its monthly oil and gas output data, a number of big companies were not allowed to disclose their financial statements and the central bank has also limited some data release.

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  • There's a graph here from the EU on energy price increases through 2021. From that perspective, Putin chose the perfect year to start a war.
    – Fizz
    Jul 15 at 16:38
  • Did you cross-check this with what interfax.ru tells the world about Russian state finances? I tried a rather quick & very dirty run for this, failed to find 'it', but some related stories (making me suspect 2 things: my search in Russian was 'too bad'/faulty, 2. the news story in claim might have an error and that's copypasta'ed away?) Since this initial claim is 'our news reports the news from another news report', perhaps you have more success in going ad fontes? Jul 15 at 20:21
  • @LangLаngС: the OP asked for corroboration from non-Russian sources.
    – Fizz
    Jul 15 at 20:27
  • Yup, & which you answered with a vague 'plausible'? But since my current state of research makes me suspect the German news to be somewhat fishy to begin with, I suggest: what is the actual Russian source saying? -> Then corroborate that? Othwerwise we are in danger of 'corroborating' possibly inaccurate hearsay with 'sounds legit'? Jul 15 at 20:32
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    @LangLаngС: You're welcome to post your own answer. I suspect your Russian is better than mine.\
    – Fizz
    Jul 15 at 20:36

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