Russia drops two time zones to boost economy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia, the world’s largest country, reduced the number of its time zones to nine from 11 on Sunday after President Dmitry Medvedev said this could make the giant nation more manageable to run and boost its economy.

Medvedev said in a state of the nation address last November that the sprawling nation which lies in both Europe and Asia ought to reduce the number of its time zones and that China and the United States ran efficiently with much fewer time zones.

Last week, Medvedev ordered the government to cut the number of time zones, saying “this can help to breathe new life into business activity.”

As Russia adjusted its clocks forward one hour on Sunday morning to shift to summer time, its easternmost Chukotka and Kamchatka peninsulas, located near the U.S. state of Alaska, went from being nine hours ahead of Moscow to eight, joining the same time zone as the neighboring Magadan region.

The Samara region on the Volga river and Udmurtia in the Urals -- the European part of Russia -- lost their own time zone one hour ahead of Moscow and were brought into line with Moscow time.

Kemerovo, the only Siberian region four hours ahead of Moscow, joined a group of Siberian regions three hours ahead of the Russian capital.

Russia occupies some 17 million square km (6.6 million square miles), making it by far the largest nation in the world, and covers more than a ninth of the Earth’s land area.

Medvedev has suggested that the number of Russia’s time zones could eventually be reduced to just five.

He has also told government experts to study whether to continue the practice of shifting summer to winter time and back every year.

Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton