A customer stands in front of shelves at the fish department of a hypermarket of French grocery retailer Auchan in Moscow, January 15, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
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Russian households are bearing the brunt of the blowback from the crisis in Ukraine and a tailspin in oil prices, setting the stage for the biggest drop in consumption in more than two decades that will deepen the country's recession.Six years after presiding over a one-third increase in pensions at the height of the last crisis, President Vladimir Putin, whose approval rating is near a record high, is now pegging changes in retirement payments to last year's inflation as he steers the bulk of a 2.3 trillion-ruble ($37 billion) program to support lenders and industry, almost half of it to recapitalize banks.Inflation, which soared to 15 percent from a year earlier in January, is forecast by the Economy Ministry to peak at as much as 17 percent this spring, a level not seen since 2002 .Support for the Russian leader matched a record 88 percent in October and was at 85 percent last month, compared with 65 percent in January 2014, according to a Jan. 23-26 survey of 1,600 people by the Moscow-based polling company Levada Center.For 2015, the Economy Ministry predicts a decline of more than 9 percent in real wages after a 1 percent drop in 2014 . That compares with an average annual increase of more than 10 percent in monthly wages in the past 15 years. As Russia was staggering from the lowest oil prices since 2009, Putin responded in early December by ordering budget cuts of at least 5 percent a year in real terms for 2015-2017 .
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