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“We are actively engaged in redirecting our trade flows and foreign economic contacts to reliable international partners, primarily BRICS countries,” Putin said in his video opening address to attendees of the virtual BRICS summit.

The acronym “BRICS” refers to an informal grouping of the five developing economies.

According to Putin, trade between Russia and BRICS countries increased by 38% and reached $45 billion in the first three months of the year.

“Contacts between the Russian business community and the business community of the BRICS countries have intensified,” Putin said. “For example, negotiations are underway to open Indian chain stores in Russia [and to] increase the share of Chinese cars, equipment and materials in our market.”

Russia is also increasing its oil exports to China and India, which have bought barrels at a very favorable price. China’s crude imports from Russia hit a record high in May, ousting Saudi Arabia as the country’s top supplier.

Putin added that Russia’s messaging system between financial institutions is open for banks from all five countries to connect and that Moscow is finding new ways to transact without relying on currencies such as the dollar or euro.

“Together with BRICS partners, we are developing reliable alternative mechanisms for international settlements,” Putin said.

In his address, Putin accused the West of neglecting “the basic principles of [the] market economy” such as free trade.

“It undermines commercial interests globally, negatively affecting the well-being of people, in fact, all countries,” he said.

The BRICS summit, hosted by Beijing, is Putin’s first international forum with the heads of other major economies since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Western sanctions have cut Russia off from large swaths of the global economy and plunged the country into a deep recession. But Moscow continues to make money from exports, especially as energy prices rise. The International Energy Agency estimates that Russian oil export earnings reached around $20 billion in May.

— Julia Horowitz contributed reporting.


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