Russia makes last-minute bond payment

·2-min read

Russia has staved off a default on its debt by making a last-minute payment using its precious dollar reserves sitting outside the country, US Treasury officials say.

The amount of the payment was not disclosed, but earlier this month Russia's finance ministry said it tried to make a $US649 million ($A919 million) payment due April 6 toward two bonds to an unnamed US bank, previously reported as JPMorgan Chase.

At that time, tightened sanctions imposed for Russia's invasion of Ukraine prevented the payment being accepted, so Moscow attempted to make the debt payment in roubles.

The Kremlin, which repeatedly said it was financially able and willing to continue to pay on its debts, had argued that extraordinary events gave it the legal footing to pay in roubles, instead of dollars or euros.

Investors and rating agencies, however, disagreed and did not expect Russia to be able to convert the roubles into dollars before a 30-day grace period expired next week, leading to speculation that Moscow was heading toward a historic default on its debt.

Russia has not defaulted on its foreign debts since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

Treasury officials, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak on the record, said Russia tapped into its foreign currency reserves sitting outside the country to make Friday's payment.

Since the US sanctioned Russia's Central Bank early in the conflict, Russia had only the ability to either use fresh revenues coming from activities such as oil and gas sales, or existing foreign currency reserves outside the country.

The US has been attempting to force Russia to use its foreign currency reserves - or any revenue from oil and gas sales - in order to deplete the country's financial resources.

The Russian finance ministry said it made the payments at a London branch of Citigroup. A Citi spokeswoman declined to comment.

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