Russian ruble hits 7-year high against the dollar

The Russian ruble hit a seven-year high against the dollar on Tuesday, nearly four months after the country invaded Ukraine.

Exchange rates jumped to 53.75 rubles per U.S. dollar on Moscow Exchange as of 6:30 p.m. in Russia’s capital, the highest level since May 2015 and a roughly 39 percent gain since the start of the year. 

The currency plummeted upon Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February as countries piled on sanctions aimed at crushing the ruble and the Russian economy, reaching a low of roughly 121 rubles per dollar on March 10.

In the United States, the Biden administration has cut off Russian energy imports, sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin and dozens of his allies, and targeted various aspects of the Russian economy.

The European Union earlier this month formally adopted an embargo on most Russian oil imports by the end of the year, though it kept in a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline to European countries with a “particular pipeline dependency.”

But the nonprofit Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said last week that Russia has earned about 93 billion euros, the equivalent of roughly $97 billion, in revenue for its energy sales since invading Ukraine.

The independent group indicated that China has now overtaken Germany as the biggest buyer of Russian energy exports amid the tougher posture by much of Europe.

Facing a squeeze by Western countries, Russia has looked to prop up the ruble as its invasion of Ukraine approaches its fifth month.

Russia imposed capital controls on the ruble in the days following the invasion, requiring major Russian multinationals to sell 80 percent of their revenue held in foreign currency in exchange for rubles to protect the currency’s value and give Moscow access to foreign currency. 

But as the ruble rebounded, the Russian Finance Ministry announced late last month it would reduce that requirement to 50 percent.

In April, the Treasury Department dismissed the apparent ruble comeback, with a senior Treasury official citing high inflation figures in Russia that he argued were a result of ongoing sanctions.

Bloomberg reported that top Russian officials on Monday put forward opposing views for a target exchange rate as they grow concerned about the higher value of the ruble undermining Russia’s export competitiveness and budget finances.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov on Monday suggested an “optimal” rate is between 70 to 80 rubles per dollar, but the Bank of Russia’s deputy governor hours later argued that setting such a goal would not be effective, according to the outlet.