India says importing Russian oil part of inflation management

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By Aftab Ahmed

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -India's finance minister said on Thursday that importing Russian oil was part of the country's inflation-management strategy and that other countries were doing something similar.

Despite Western pressure, India has not condemned Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, instead calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and an end to violence. Russia has for decades been India's biggest foreign supplier of defence hardware.

India's crude oil shipments from Russia have jumped to between 12% and 13% of imports from all sources since February from about 2% before then, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said.

India is the world's third-biggest consumer and importer of crude oil, and Sitharaman said Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserved credit for balancing trade and other ties with various countries.

"I give credit to the statesmanship of the prime minister to make sure globally that we did keep up the relationship with all countries but yet managed to get the Russian fuel, which is what Japan is doing today, which is what some other countries are doing," Sitharaman said at an event in New Delhi.

Indian government ministers have repeatedly said the country needed to keep buying energy from Russia to keep inflation under check.

Sitharaman said India's inflation management was "an exercise of so many activities, most of which are outside the (purview of) monetary policy".

Indian retail prices in July were 6.71% higher than a year earlier. Although the annual inflation rate has now fallen for three months, it has exceeded the central bank's tolerance band of 2% to 6% for seventh months in a row.

(Reporting by Aftab Ahmed; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Bradley Perrett)