Russia to seize retailers’ deposits if sanctions go too far, official warns

In the event of very strict economic sanctions by the West as Russian forces invade Ukraine, retail customers could risk losing their savings.

Russians’ savings could be seized in response to sanctions against the country, according to Nikolai Arefiev, a member of the country’s Communist Party and deputy chairman of the Russian Duma’s economic policy committee.

The Russian government can potentially confiscate some 60 trillion rubles ($750 billion) of people’s deposits if Western nations decide to block all foreign funds from Russia, said Arefiev in an interview with the local news agency on Monday.

“If all foreign funds are blocked, the government will have no choice but to confiscate all the people’s deposits, that is, 60 trillion rubles to resolve the situation,” the official stated, noting that Russia stores more than $640 billion of foreign exchange and gold reserves.

He also mentioned that possible sanctions against Russia include a possible disconnection from SWIFT and foreign exchange bans.

Russian President Vladimir Putin officially announced a special military operation in Ukraine, which could trigger a series of sanctions on the largest Russian banks, among them the state-owned Sberbank and VTB.

According to local reports, Sberbank mistakenly made a statement about its inclusion in the sanctions list by the United States on Thursday night, but later retirement the notice, claiming that the statement was false and caused by a “website crash”.

At press time, on the Sberbank website you can read that Sberbank and all its systems work normally, while clients and legal entities have access to their funds and services in full.

“We are prepared for any evolution of the situation and have developed scenarios to ensure the protection of funds, assets and interests of our clients, as well as to ensure the regular operation of all our functions,” the notice says.

On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry declared that he would make sure to respond to possible Western sanctions, stating: “Make no mistake, we will respond forcefully to these sanctions, not necessarily in a symmetrical way, but the response will be well calibrated and will not go untouched by the United States.”

Balaji Srinivasana cryptocurrency investor and former Coinbase chief technology officer, suggested that the ministry was threatening a cyber war with the West:

The latest news comes as the Russian ruble plunges to a record low against the US dollar, with indices falling go up up to 115 rubles or more per dollar for those who want to buy dollars on the open market, up 35% from 74 rubles a couple of weeks ago. According to local reports, Sberbank offered your customers buy dollars for 100 rubles on Thursday.

USD/RUB 30-day chart. Source: TradingView

Recent events have caused a massive shock to the Russian stock and crypto markets, with Bitcoin (BTC) briefly falling below $35,000 for the first time since June 2021, according CoinGecko data. The total market capitalization it fell below USD 1.7 trillion for the first time since August last year.

According Sam Bankman FriedCEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, the sharp drop in the cryptocurrency and stock markets is “to pay for the war”.

Investments in crypto assets are not regulated. They may not be suitable for retail investors and the full amount invested may be lost. The services or products offered are not aimed at or accessible to investors in Spain.