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Repeat: Russia may tap oil windfalls if prices drop - finance minister

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India
(Fixes headline - FM stands for "Finance Minister")

MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - The finance minister said Tuesday some of the funds set up for Russia's energy profits could be spent in the next two years, but gave little sign that tapping the oil piggybank would be easy.

"[Part of] the Reserve Fund may be spent in the next two years if oil [price] falls below $45 [per barrel]," Alexei Kudrin said, adding that the cutoff level "will be raised to $50 in 2010," which could reflect either hopes that oil prices will be higher or the projected growth of government spending.

At the same time, the minister, long known for his reluctance to invest the current Stabilization Fund in Russia for fear of boosting inflation, stressed that the government ought in any case to be able to cope without a shot in the arm from the Fund.

What is currently the nearly-$100-billion Stabilization Fund will soon be renamed to the Reserve Fund. As soon as the Reserve Fund grows beyond 10% of the GDP, or an estimated 4.48 trillion rubles ($173 billion) in 2010, oil revenues will be channeled to the additional National Prosperity Fund, intended for long-term investments.

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