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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Russian stocks fall on fears of an invasion of Ukraine and sanctions against Moscow

Russian stocks tumbled on Monday and the country’s currency plunged against the dollar to its lowest level in 14 months as rising tensions over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked investor fears about sanctions against Moscow.

Risk aversion initially sent the Moscow Exchange Russia intraday index down more than 7% on Monday, with a relief rally offsetting some of the initial losses. By 9:12 am New York time, the MOEX index was down about 5% to 3233.85.

After falling more than 8.5% in early trading on Monday, the Russian RTS Index was down about 6% by 9:17 am New York time to trade at 1292.38.

On January 24, the Russian ruble fell more than 2 percent against the US dollar and by 8:55 am New York time it was trading at 78.83 against the US dollar, its lowest level since November 2020.

In an attempt to contain the ruble’s fall and reduce financial market volatility, Russia’s central bank on Monday ordered a temporary halt to foreign currency purchases, the regulator said in a statement.

Volatility has shaken Russian markets in recent weeks amid fears that Moscow intends to invade neighboring Ukraine. While the Kremlin denies any such plans, Western leaders are increasingly worried about a Russian troop buildup near the border.

Danish authorities have said the European Union is ready to impose “unprecedented” economic sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine.

Amid rising tensions, the United States said Sunday it was ordering family members of U.S. diplomats to leave Ukraine and also authorizing the voluntary departure of non-essential government employees. The US Embassy in Kiev said in a social media post that the decision was made “due to Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or living in Ukraine.”

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) confirmed on Monday that it had already begun recalling some of its embassy staff and dependents from Kiev, citing a “growing threat from Russia.”

British authorities said on Saturday they have information that the Kremlin plans to overthrow the Ukrainian government and replace it with a pro-Moscow regime.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement that the information “sheds light on the extent of Russian activities aimed at undermining Ukraine and provides insight into the Kremlin’s mindset.”

Truss urged Russia to “de-escalate, end campaigns of aggression and disinformation and follow the path of diplomacy” and reiterated Britain’s view that “any Russian military intervention in Ukraine would be a major strategic mistake with serious consequences.”

The Kremlin denied the British claim and accused Western powers of stoking tensions in the region.

“The disinformation spread by the UK Foreign Office is further evidence that it is the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, that are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a Telegram message dated January 23. “We call on the UK Foreign Office to stop provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense.”

Russian officials insist the country’s finances are healthy and the fundamentals of the economy remain strong.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed Western hysteria for the devastation of the Russian market, telling reporters that “the sooner our opponents stop their hysterical actions, the sooner this pessimistic attitude will disappear.”

To follow

Tom Ozimek has extensive experience in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he’s ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: “Achieve your goal” and “save the best for last.”


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