© Reuters. A customer hands over Russian rouble banknotes and coins to a vendor at a market in Omsk, Russia February 18, 2022. REUTERS/Alexey Malgavko/Files
(Reuters) – Russia will service its external debt obligations in roubles if the United States blocks other options and will not call itself in default, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said.
Washington is considering blocking Russia’s ability to pay its U.S. bondholders by allowing a key waiver to expire on May 25, which could put Moscow closer to default.
Moscow is due to make another Eurobond payment on May 27.
“We are not going to call any defaults, we have money – unless Western countries make it impossible to service our debts,” Siluanov told a forum. “We will be able to pay and will pay foreigners in roubles as a last resort option if Western (financial) infrastructure is closed for us.”
Western sanctions on Russia ban transactions with Russia’s finance ministry, central bank or national wealth fund.
But the U.S. waiver, issued by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on March 2, had made an exception for the purposes of “the receipt of interest, dividend, or maturity payments in connection with debt or equity.”
That has allowed Moscow to keep paying investors and avert default on its government debt, and allowed U.S. investors to continue to collect coupon payments.
After the waiver expires on May 25, Russia will still have almost $2 billion worth of external sovereign bond payments to make before the end of the year.
Russia to service foreign debt in roubles if other options blocked – finance minister