Russia’s international reserves are back to over $600bn

Russia’s international reserves are back to over $600bn
Russia's gross international reserves are back over $600bn for the first time since the war in Ukraine started. / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin April 13, 2023

Russia’s international reserves increased by 1.2%, or $6.9bn, in one week to top $600bn for the first time since the war in Ukraine started, the Central Bank said in a statement on April 13. (chart)

"International reserves amounted to $600.8bn as of April 7, up by $6.9bn, or by 1.2%, in one week as a result of positive revaluation," the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) said.

Russia’s international reserves are highly liquid foreign assets available through the CBR and the Russian government. They comprise foreign currency, Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a reserve position in the International Monetary Fund and monetary gold.

Previously the CBR held a basket of currencies but in the last year it sold off all its dollars and is in the process of selling off the Japanese yen, pounds sterling and euros that were also part of the basket. By the end of this year the regulator says the reserves will be entirely made up of Chinese yuan (60%) and gold (40%).

Russia’s reserves fell from an all-time high of $631bn in December 2021 and were down to $605bn as of March last year at the start of the war.

Following the imposition of extreme sanctions by the West, the reserves fell further to a low of $540bn in September 2022, but since then have started to recover after Russia successfully switched its oil export trade from Europe to Asia, with India and China taking up almost all the slack, earning the country a record-high current account surplus of $227bn in 2022.

Oil and gas revenues crashed again in December and January as fresh oil sanctions on crude came into effect on December 5 and on refined products on February 5.

However, the Ministry of Finance is confident that oil and gas revenues will recover in the second half of this year and the budget deficit will remain at about 2% of GDP, but analysts are less certain, expecting a deficit of some 4%.

In related news, not only are Russia's reserves rising, but its debt is falling. 

The Russian foreign debt stood at $357.9bn as of April 1, 2023, the Central Bank said in the same report. The debt dropped by 5.9% or by $22.6bn, compared to the figure at the year start, Tass reports. 

"The dynamics was largely driven by the contraction of foreign debt of other sectors as regards attracted credits, including within the framework of direct investing relations, the Central Bank noted.

The Russian foreign debt totalled $380.5bn as of January 1 of this year, the Bank of Russia said on March 29. The debt figure contracted by $101.8bn over 2022.