Russische central bank verliest grip op reserves
March 3, 2022 - The Central Bank of Russia has about $640 billion in international reserves, but more than $350bn is in offshore accounts. Sanctions imposed against the CBR render most of its resources useless.
Russia’s reserves are denominated in the world’s major currencies -- the U.S. dollar, euro, sterling and the yuan -- and around 2,000 tonnes of gold. Usually, in a currency crisis, the central bank could sell those reserves for rubles to prop up the currency’s value.
But $315 billion of those reserves is held in the U.S., France, Germany, UK, Japan, Austria and Canada, according to the latest figures available, which date from June 2021. Moscow holds another $30 billion in international monetary organizations, where the U.S. may also prevent Russia from accessing them.
The most significant share of reserves -- making up 21.7 per cent -- is bullion. The central bank’s $139.5 billion worth of gold is the fifth largest globally. Holding the gold in Russia, not in the City of London or New York, will make it difficult for the central bank to sell it in large quantities.
Almost 14 per cent of foreign exchange reserves are held in China -- the biggest share for any state -- and denominated in yuan, meaning that Beijing can become a means for Russia to continue trading with at least some parts of the world.
Limiting the Russian central bank’s ability to sell foreign exchange reserves for rubles has halved its financial firepower in one swift stroke.