10 Mar 2022 17:57

Freezing Russian reserves abroad is 'default' by certain countries on obligations to Russia - Siluanov

MOSCOW. March 10 (Interfax) - Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said he considered the freezing of Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves by a number of countries to be a default on their obligations to Russia.

"The West has declared a default on its own financial obligations before Russia, it has frozen our gold and forex reserves," he said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.

The United States Treasury Department on March 1 issued a directive prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with the Central Bank of Russia, Russia's National Wealth Fund and the Russian Finance Ministry, effectively immobilizing any assets of the CBR held in the United States or by U.S. persons, wherever located. Britain, Japan, Canada and Switzerland followed suit.

The European Union has also decided to freeze the assets of the Russian Central Bank. "Transactions related to the management of reserves as well as of assets of the Central Bank of Russia, including transactions with any legal person, entity or body acting on behalf of, or at the direction of, the Central Bank of Russia, are prohibited," it said on February 28.

The present structure of reserves is not known - the Bank of Russia discloses detailed information with a delay of at least six months. The Russian authorities have been actively changing the reserves structure, dropping what they believe tonnes be geopolitically risky assets from them. But very few reserve assets in the world are risk-free from in this sense, so it would have been impossible to solve the problem completely before it arose.

Assets denominated in U..S. dollars amounted to $96 billion or 16.4% of total international reserves of $585.3 billion at end-Q2 2021. Assets in euros were $189.1 billion or 32.3% of reserves, assets in pounds sterling - $38 billion or 6.5%, in yuan - $76.7 billion or 13.1%, in yen - $33.4 billion or 5.7%, in Canadian dollars - $17.6 billion or 3%, in Australian dollars - $5.9 billion or 1% and in Singapore dollars - $1.8 billion or 0.3%. The Bank of Russia would have lost access to almost two-thirds of its reserves if the decisions to freeze its accounts had been made then.