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Russian firms criticize tough IMF program

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Russia's largest oil companies accused the government Wednesday of carrying out "irresponsible" and dangerous policies at the behest of the International Monetary Fund and other foreign lenders.

The government is implementing an economic austerity program demanded by the IMF as a condition for a multibillion dollar loan package. The program includes spending cuts and improved tax enforcement."We are forced to state that the economic policy of international financial organizations toward basic industries is irresponsible," Russia's largest oil companies said in a statement reported by news agencies.

"It deepens the crisis, aggravates the social situation and is fraught with the risk of bankruptcy for enterprises that are unable to work effectively," the statement said.

Government policies may lead to "irreversible social consequences" in the next two to three months, it said.

Such predictions, common among Communist lawmakers, are unusual from oil companies, who generally enjoy a good relationship with the government and are favored in its policies.

The new austerity program calls for enforced tax collection from oil companies, which provide a large share of budget revenues. But it also calls for rescheduling the companies' tax debts and shifting the tax burden from producers to consumers.

After showing its first signs of growth last year, Russia's economy has been collapsing for months.