The ruble tumbled as investors took fright of the impact of new US sanctions
Moscow (AFP) - The Russian ruble tumbled Thursday to its lowest level against the dollar in almost two years after the United States said it was imposing fresh sanctions on Moscow over the nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.
Washington’s punitive measures led to the ruble falling to 66.48 against the dollar on Thursday morning, its lowest value since November 2016.
The latest wave of sanctions also saw the Russian stock market index RTS dive 3.2 percent and the MOEX index fall nearly 1.2 percent at around 0745 GMT on Thursday.
Russian banks were also affected, with shares in the state-run Sberbank sliding 4.7 percent.
The US State Department announced the sanctions late on Wednesday, calling them a response to “the use of a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal” – who was a double agent – and his daughter Yulia in March.
The action is aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin’s government for having “used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The new sanctions are to take effect following a 15-day Congressional notification period, she said.
Another senior State Department official told reporters that the administration decided to impose a “presumption of denial” for the sale to Russia of “national security sensitive” US technologies that require federal government approval.
Such technologies have often been used in items including electronic devices as well as calibration equipment. The exports were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis.
The move could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports to Russia, said the official, who requested anonymity in order to speak about the sanctions.
The Russian economy is still reeling from the 2014 international sanctions imposed on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine and a crash in oil prices the same year.
While Russia returned to growth in 2017 after two years of recession, it pales in comparison with growth figures seen during Putin’s first two terms in office from 2000 to 2008 thanks to soaring oil prices