Higher prices dent Putin's sky-high popularity: paper

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russians' concern about rising prices has eroded President Vladimir Putin's approval ratings but these remain extremely high, the daily Vedomosti reported on Friday. It cited a poll by the Public Opinion Foundation as showing that 72 percent of Russians would have voted for Putin in August, down from 76 percent in May. Another poll, by the Levada Center, showed that in August 83 percent of Russians approved of the President's actions, down from an all-time high of 89 percent in May. The paper quoted experts as saying the fall reflected public dissatisfaction about prices during the summer, when many regulated prices such as utility and transport charges are raised. Putin's popularity ratings remain extremely high by both international and historical standards, boosted by his response to political upheaval in Ukraine last year. His annexation of Crimea and denunciation of Western actions stirred patriotic fervor in Russia. According to the Levada Center's poll, Putin's approval rating in November 2013 was 61 percent, the lowest since 2000 when he was first elected President, but it surged above 80 percent early last year. Consumer price inflation was 15.6 percent in July, having hit a 13-year high of 16.9 percent in March after a slump in the rouble caused by a collapse in oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict. (Reporting by Jason Bush; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)