China smartphone sales rise to more than 70% of Russian market

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- Chinese smartphones made up more than 70% of the Russian market in the first quarter of 2023, consumer electronics retailer M.Video-Eldorado said, up from around 50% last year.

China's smartphone surge comes after Samsung and Apple both curtailed sales in Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, with Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi and Realme now occupying the market's top two spots.

Moscow is becoming more dependent on Beijing, having sharply raised its use of the yuan, increased energy supplies to China and started selling more Chinese-branded cars as Western automakers leave Russia.

Apple and Samsung have dropped to third and fourth spot respectively, from first and third in 2022, Russia's leading consumer electronics retailer M.Video said.

"Demand for brands from China in quantity terms increased by 42% relative to last year, and their total share was over 70%," M.Video added in a statement on Monday.

Russia is trying to wean itself off Western technology and the Kremlin told officials involved in preparations for the 2024 presidential election to stop using Apple iPhones because of concerns that the devices are vulnerable to Western intelligence agencies, Kommersant newspaper reported last month.

The Kremlin has also moved to allow Russian companies to ship in some products, including smartphones, without the license holder's permission in so-called parallel imports.

Analysts say that most devices are imported from China, but the Vedomosti newspaper in February cited research by GS Group, which said that parallel imports had helped iPhone imports from India double in 2022 compared with the year before.

Last year, M.Video and mobile operator MTS began selling discounted and used smartphones, offering Russian consumers cheaper alternatives as Western sanctions contributed to economic contraction and falling wages.

M.Video noted that demand for smartphones was recovering in the first quarter of this year.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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