Preliminary figures from state statistical agency Goskomstat say Russia’s merchandise trade surplus for the first half of 2000 was $28.4 billion, about double last year’s already high figure. The results reflect primarily the rise in the price of oil, which in early 1999 averaged under $10 per barrel and over the first five months of this year averaged $22.60 per barrel. Gas, nickel and aluminum, all export commodities, were also sharply higher. Oil export volumes did not rise, thanks to export taxes and quotas. Imports rose only 8 percent to $20.7 billion, reflecting the lingering effects of the 1998 devaluation. All of the increase in imports came from the former Soviet states, where the Russian ruble still looks strong and where many transactions still depend on barter. The Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet states except the Baltics) supplied 29 percent of Russia’s imports and bought 16 percent of Russia’s exports in the first half of 2000.