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Crisis Side Effects Could Net Billions for Kremlin

A drop of 1 ruble in its exchange rate to the dollar gives state coffers an additional 180 billion rubles ($5 billion) of revenues

Published: March 5, 2014 (Issue # 1800)



  • As the West is looking for ways to make Russia pay for the interference in Ukraines domestic affairs, statements coming from diplomats mention threats to isolate Moscow economically.
    Photo: Igor Tabakov / SPT

A cheaper ruble and more expensive oil could actually go a long way in improving Russias economy, possibly offsetting other potential aftershocks of the Ukraine crisis.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in interviews on Sunday identified the rubles slide as among Russias economic challenges that could get worse if Western powers retaliated economically for a takeover of Ukraines Crimea peninsula by armed men thought to be Russian troops. He was speaking after President Vladimir Putin won unanimous approval from the parliament to use armed forces in Ukraine.

Related: Ruble and Stocks Tumble on Ukraine Turmoil

The currency declined further in Monday trading, but a ruble that is losing value is a great prop for struggling local manufacturers, which now find themselves more competitive with Western imports. Besides, oil prices that edged up about $2 a barrel Monday are creating additional income for a federal budget that depends on these revenues heavily.

Some of the consequences [of the Ukraine situation] can be for the better, said Oleg Kuzmin, an economist for Russia at investment bank Renaissance Capital. First of all, it is the weaker ruble, which will slow down the growth in imports.

Related: Ruble Falls to Lowest Level Against Euro Since 2009

At the same time, Kuzmin warned that a devaluation that was too fast would come as a shock to businesses and the general public, casting doubt on economic stability. The Central Bank intervened in Monday currency trading with all its might and largely restrained the ruble downfall. Its official ruble exchange rate for Tuesday was only 19 kopeks more per dollar, an increase of about 0.5 percent.

In another effort to keep a lid on the exchange rate, the Central Bank temporarily raised its interest rates Monday, thus restricting access by banks to the money supply, which could end up being used to buy U.S. currency. If the measure lasts for more than a month, it could further chill the countrys sluggish economic growth, Kuzmin said.

The effort comes despite the fact that a drop of 1 ruble in its exchange rate to the dollar gives state coffers an additional 180 billion rubles ($5 billion) of revenues, he said. The Central Bank set the exchange rate at 36.4 rubles per dollar for Tuesday, compared to the governments estimate of 34 rubles on average for this year.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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