PM Lee: Russia offers investment opportunities in the long term
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during a welcoming ceremony for heads of the delegations at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi, Russia, May 20, 2016 Reuters

Despite the economic slump Russia is going through, the country offers good investment opportunities for Singapore businesses, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

After completing a four-day visit to Russia, the prime minister said Singaporean businesses will have to approach Russia with a long-term perspective.

Lee made his first trip to Russia in 40 years to attend the ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit in Sochi.

The PM met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit, where the two leaders vowed to boost bilateral relations and economic cooperation.

Lee said in terms of "absolute size" the trade partnership between the countries was "far from its full potential" despite the fast advancing pace of cooperation.

Singaporean officials said the Russian president offered support to the country as it negotiates a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Singapore and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

The bloc that comprises Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan offers a combined market of 180 million people and a total GDP of almost S$6 trillion, the officials said, according to TODAY.

However, PM Lee said the current investment opportunities in Russia were blighted by the unusual economic slowdown the country is going through.

"In the short term, it is not so easy because the Russian economy is flat, they declined 4 percent last year, this year maybe another 2 percent. Oil prices are down and it affect them.

There are sanctions by the western countries and they also have an impact," Lee said, according to Channel News Asia.

He also pointed to the decline in the rouble that has upsets the currency regime. "(But) if you take it on the long-term perspective, then it is the place we ought to be," the prime minister said.

The prime minister said the downturn in the economy has tilted Russia's focus more towards the ASEAN countries, which offers greater opportunities for Singapore.