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Inflation in Russia climbs above 15.6%, highest since September 2015

General view of Moskva-City on a frosty day in Moscow

(Reuters) - Annual inflation in Russia accelerated to 15.66% as of March 25, its highest since September 2015 and up from 14.53% a week earlier, the economy ministry said on Wednesday, as the battered rouble sent prices soaring amid unprecedented Western sanctions.

Inflation in Russia has accelerated sharply in the past few weeks as the rouble's fall to an all-time low boosted demand for a wide range of goods, from food staples to cars, on expectations that their prices will rise even higher.

In February, annual inflation in Russia was at 9.15%.

Weekly inflation in Russia slowed to 1.16% in the week to March 25 from 1.93% a week earlier, taking the year-to-date increase in consumer prices to 8.91%, data from statistics service Rosstat showed on Wednesday.

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In that week, prices on nearly everything from baby food to pharmaceuticals rose further but at a slower pace than in the previous weeks.

The central bank, which targets annual inflation at 4%, held its key rate at 20% in March and warned of an imminent spike in inflation and a looming economic contraction.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Sandra Maler)