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By Alexander Winning and Andrey Ostroukh
MOSCOW, March 24 Russia's gold and foreign
currency reserves could rise by $23 billion this year, the head
of the central bank said on Friday, improving the country's
resilience against external shocks.
Elvira Nabiullina, central bank governor, told reporters
Russia's reserves would rise thanks to state foreign currency
purchases for the country's fiscal reserves and banks returning
dollars they had taken in forex repo operations.
Russia's reserves were at around $396 billion as
of mid-March, their highest level since November 2016.
The central bank has previously said it wants to have around
$500 billion in reserves, and Nabiullina repeated on Friday that
increasing the reserves was a strategic aim for the bank.
Russia last had $500 billion in reserves in January 2014,
before the Ukraine crisis escalated and oil prices collapsed,
forcing the central bank to stage a massive defence of the
"We will take a decision on increasing our gold and forex
reserves when there won't be risks that we will miss our 4
percent inflation target," Nabiullina said after the bank cut
its main lending rate by 25 basis points to 9.75
The central bank signalled on Friday that it would gradually
ease policy further as inflation slows.
Nabiullina also said banks could completely pay back this
year the debts they had accumulated in forex repo operations and
that she did not see factors which could lead the central bank
to abandon its free-floating exchange rate.
(Editing by Katya Golubkova)