''This fall is really worrying. It is not only the cold, it is also low competitiveness. It is a continuation of our illnesses that were in full flower last year,'' Andrei Klepach told reporters.
Russian industrial growth slowed to a mere 1 per cent in year-on-year terms, with manufacturing -- especially carmaking -- hit hardest.
Klepach said that if the current trend continued Russian industry would grow less than 4 per cent in 2006, below an official target of 4.4 per cent.
Analysts, who had expected an increase of 4.6 year-on-year in February, according to the median response in a monthly Reuters poll, saw an exceptional cold snap as the main factor behind the surprise fall.
Russia has endured its worst winter in years, with temperatures well below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) creating chaos on Russia's electricity grid and bringing work on many construction sites to a standstill.
REUTERS SD DB2000