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31 March 2022

How the Russian rouble has surged back to pre-war levels

Oil and gas exports and strict currency controls have helped the rouble recover.

By Afiq Fitri

The Russian rouble has rebounded after more than a month of war, despite international sanctions designed to paralyse the country’s economy.

Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February the rouble plummeted to a record low and was valued at less than one US cent. As of this morning (31 March) there were 81.37 roubles to the US dollar and it was edging closer to the value it held prior to the war, according to exchange rate estimates.

Positive expectations of peace talks held this week in Istanbul have partly contributed to the rouble’s recovery, but the surge is also due to strict currency controls imposed by the Russian central bank after Western sanctions on its foreign currency reserves. This effectively generated new demand for Russian currency by forcing domestic firms to convert 80 per cent of the foreign currency they receive on export sales into roubles.

Exports of oil and gas, for which global prices are high, have also brought hard currency into the country’s beleaguered economy. While the US and UK have vowed to end imports of Russian oil and gas, other countries such as Germany have hesitated to impose full embargoes due to a heavy reliance on imports from Russia.

An automated tracker developed by Greenpeace shows a daily stream of Russian oil and gas being shipped to countries all over the world, as commodity traders and shipping companies race to cash in before the "grace period" for imports ends on 22 April.

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