Russia's Fx/gold reserves reached $487.8bn as of April 1 2019, according to the data by the Central Bank of Russia (CBR).
This makes the highest Fx/gold reserves since March 2014, and brings the reserves back to the same level they were before the sanctions regime started following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea in 2014. As reported by bne IntelliNews, the macro stability of the first quarter of 2019 has allowed the CBR to come back to its target of building the gross international reserves (GIR) to over $500bn.
The $500bn target was set by the CBR in 2015, as the currency market stabilised after extreme volatility of 2014, and was repeated by Nabiullina until the spring of 2018. But in September 2018 along with front-loading the key interest rate by 25bp to 7.5% the CBR halted purchases of foreign currency on the currency market as ruble came under increased pressure from possible toughening of sanctions.
Bloomberg claimed back in 2015 that setting a FX/gold target of $500bn was a direct “recommendation” by President Vladimir Putin, who has long been following a “fiscal fortress” policy of high reserves and low external debt, but has been resisted by the central bankers.
In the meantime the structure of GIR changed, as the CBR has boosted its gold reserves and cut the share of US dollar in its currency holdings. In 2018 the CBR bought a record-high 274.3 tonnes of gold, bringing its share in GIR to about 19% and accounting for 42% of gold purchases of all central banks last year. At the same time the share of US dollar was cut from 43.7% to about 20%.