MOSCOW Feb 3 The Russian central bank will buy
the equivalent of 6.3 billion roubles ($106 million at current
market prices) a day on the Moscow Exchange this month to
replenish the country's fiscal reserves, the finance ministry
said on Friday.
The central bank will buy the equivalent of 113.1 billion
roubles ($1.9 billion) between Feb. 7 and March 6, the finance
ministry said, adding the foreign currency would be channelled
to its accounts at the central bank.
Russia is resuming dollar purchases next week to replenish
the country's drained reserves, its first interventions since a
brief burst in 2015.
The size of the daily interventions announced on Friday was
close to analysts' expectations.
The finance ministry claims the upcoming purchases are aimed
at shielding Russia from external shocks, but critics say they
are an attempt to keep the rouble weak.
A weaker rouble means revenues from oil exports earned in
dollars would translate into more roubles for the Russian
budget, allowing Moscow to boost spending.
That is convenient for Russia's authorities in the run-up to
next year's presidential election, at which President Vladimir
Putin is likely to seek a new term.
People involved in top-level discussions on the forex
purchases told Reuters the central bank wanted to distance
itself from them, fearing they would damage its credibility and
cast doubt on the rouble's free float.
The bank later agreed to start buying dollars as the finance
ministry took responsibility for the purchases, saying they were
needed to implement a budget rule, something the International
Monetary Fund has called for in the past.
($1 = 59.4232 roubles)
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Alexander Winning)