• Reuters

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Russia’s inflation hit 15 percent in January, official data showed on Thursday, underscoring the growing economic pain from sliding oil prices and Western sanctions linked to the Ukraine conflict.

Inflation has been shooting up in recent months as a result of a slide in the ruble, which has made imports dearer, as well as restrictions imposed on many food imports from the West in retaliation for the sanctions.

The surge in inflation is embarrassing for the central bank, coming just days after it unexpectedly cut its main lending rate to 17 percent from 15 percent, prompting many analysts to warn that it was taking risks with inflation.

The bank’s governor, Elvira Nabiuillina, on Tuesday defended the cut by saying that real interest rates — the difference between nominal rates and inflation — remained positive.

That claim has now been quickly proved wrong.

Russian officials have forecast that inflation will reach 15 to 17 percent in the coming months, but the speed of the increase comes as a surprise. A month earlier, inflation was running at 11.4 percent.

The Economy Ministry revised its forecasts at the end of January to say inflation would end 2015 at 12 percent, higher than last year.

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