High energy prices helped Russia to receive an additional $227 billion in 2022. About a third of this amount — $80 billion — was saved without returning it to the Russian Federation, but by breaking it into bank accounts of state-controlled structures abroad. This is reported by Bloomberg, calling this amount Russia's "stash".
"Zanachka", according to the agency, is distributed among the accounts of state-controlled companies, partially invested in real estate, as well as in investments and other assets outside the Russian Federation. Experts explain the possibility of accumulating such reserves by the fact that Western countries did not immediately respond to Russian aggression against Ukraine. The bulk of the accumulated "stash" came from export earnings from energy resources, the flows of which Western countries reduced only by the end of 2022.
“Because of Europe's delay in targeting Russia's energy sector, the Kremlin has managed to accumulate one of the largest current account surpluses in its history. The “stash” helped neutralize the freezing of Russia’s international reserves, the Kremlin was able to actually compensate for what it had lost, ”says Maria Shagina, an economist at the British International Institute for Strategic Studies.
At the same time, it is still not possible to find exactly where these funds are and who manages them due to the too high level of asset diversification. The agency recalls that the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance, among other things, contributed to the accumulation of foreign exchange assets abroad, which allowed exporters not to return all their foreign exchange earnings back to the country, thus strengthening the ruble exchange rate. On the contrary, the authorities welcomed foreign currency sales in every possible way, as this at least partially contributed to the restoration of import flows to Russia, which collapsed against the backdrop of Western sanctions.
However, in the near future, Ukraine’s allies, in particular Germany and Canada, who are actively lobbying for the use of Russia’s frozen reserves and assets of sanctioned legal entities and individuals to help Kiev, may start looking for these assets. At the same time, even Russian experts admit that these funds can be used as "shadow reserves" and at the right time can be withdrawn in favor of the state. So, for example, Alexander Knobel from the All-Russian Academy of Foreign Trade (VAVT) believes.
Sergey Guriev, former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and now professor of economics at the Paris Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po), believes that Russia is indeed trying to form “shadow reserves” in this way, but the main question is whether they will be enough to finance the deficit. budget for the current year.
After the start of a full-scale war with Ukraine, Western countries froze about $300 billion of Russian reserves, and also began to freeze and seize assets belonging to Russians and legal entities from the sanctions lists. "Shadow reserves" can help Russia at least partially overcome the sanctions, since the Western authorities will not be able to arrest them completely - they will have to spend time searching for and arresting them, which is quite problematic to do with complex ownership structures.