MOSCOW, Feb 3 (Reuters) - 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)