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Russia to hike defence spending by almost 70 percent

Russia is set to hike defence spending by almost 70 percent in 2024, a finance ministry document published Thursday showed, as Moscow pours resources into its full-scale offensive in Ukraine.

Since the conflict began last year, Russia has ramped up arms manufacturing and pumped massive funds into its military machine, despite persistently high inflation and a weaker ruble.

The document said defence spending was set to jump by over 68 percent year-on-year to almost 10.8 trillion rubles ($111.15 billion), totalling around 6 percent of GDP -- more than spending allocated for social policy.

Defence spending is set to total around three times more than education, environmental protection and healthcare spending combined in 2024, figures calculated by AFP showed.

"The focus of economic policy is shifting from an anti-crisis agenda to the promotion of national development goals," the finance ministry said in the document.

It said this included "strengthening the country's defence capacity" and "integrating" the four Ukrainian regions Moscow claimed to annex last year -- Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

The increased defence spending comes as Russia's central bank warns economic growth is set to slow down in the second half of 2023, with inflation above the bank's target of four percent. 

President Vladimir Putin and other officials have largely shrugged off the economic effects of the Ukraine offensive, arguing Russia has largely weathered the storm of Western sanctions.

Increase is necessary

The Kremlin said the increase in defence spending was "absolutely necessary," citing what it said was a "hybrid war unleashed against Russia.

"It's obvious that such an increase is necessary, absolutely necessary because we are in a state of hybrid war and we are continuing the special military operation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, referring to Moscow's military offensive in Ukraine, adding: "I'm referring to the hybrid war that has been unleashed against us."