Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev admitted Russia was facing an “unprecedented” economic crisis amid fears that its fallout may be as devastating as the breakup of the Soviet Union 17 years ago had on the country’s economy.

At a meeting of regional legislators, Mr. Medvedev called on them to come up with new ideas for coping with the crisis. He also said the lawmakers should not be shy to criticise the measures taken by the government.

“Debate is admissible and even necessary… It should not surprise anyone that [government] policy is subject to criticism.”

There is nothing wrong with supporting government policies either, he said. Mr. Medvedev himself rapped the government, led by his predecessor Vladimir Putin, last month for a slow response to the crisis, which he described as “unacceptable.” Russia’s GDP contracted by 2.9 per cent in January and is estimated to have further declined by 4.7 per cent in February. Energy-dominated exports collapsed by over 50 per cent in January.