Reported by PHIL SHIVER | February 28, 2022
New financial penalties levied on Russia for its continued aggression in Ukraine appeared to hit the country’s economy hard on Monday as Russia’s currency cratered to a record low value and its stock market froze. The Russian ruble’s value plummeted to less than one U.S. cent on Monday, Time reported, dropping more than 25% to 105.27 per U.S. dollar, down from approximately 84 per dollar late Friday.
After initially declining to do so, the U.S., Japan, and several European nations on Saturday agreed to enact more severe sanctions on Russia as its forces continued an assault on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in an attempt to overthrow the government. The group of nations went after central bank reserves that underpin Russia’s economy and removed several key Russian banks from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a vital international banking system.
Time noted the ruble’s calamitous decline would likely send inflation soaring, a development that would hurt all Russians and not just the elites who were targeted in earlier sanctions.
Critics had called for the forceful move to be enacted immediately upon Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but Western leaders initially balked. Even now, Time noted that the disconnection from SWIFT is “partial,” leaving room for the U.S. and Europe to escalate penalties.”
Yet the effects are reportedly being felt already, as Russian residents rushed to ATMs to withdraw cash amid the ruble’s free fall. In addition to the currency plunge, the Russian stock market also took a major hit on Monday. According to the New York Times, officials closed the Moscow stock exchange for the day, citing the “developing situation.”
“The economic reality has, of course, changed,” the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, reportedly told members of the press while announcing that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered an emergency meeting with top finance officials.
Western restrictions effectively have placed a chokehold on the Kremlin’s ability to access its war chest of financial reserves and sent to the country careening towards an economic crisis. At the very least, the world intends to financially isolate Russia in a way not experienced since the Cold War.
“Putin embarked on a path aiming to destroy Ukraine, but what he is also doing, in fact, is destroying the future of his own country,” European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday.
Yet even as Russia’s economy faced significant distress and delegations from Russia and Ukraine met in Belarus for peace talks, the Russian offensive showed no signs of letting up. Ukrainian officials claimed Monday that an air raid on residential areas in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, left dozens of people dead, including several civilians.
“Kharkiv has just been massively fired upon by grads [rockets]. Dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded,” the interior ministry said on Facebook, according to BBC News.