LONDON – Russia said on Sunday it was counting on China to withstand the blow to its economy from Western sanctions, which it says have frozen nearly half its gold and foreign exchange reserves.
“We have part of our gold and foreign exchange reserves in the Chinese currency, in yuan. And we see the pressure that Western countries are putting on China to restrict mutual trade with China. Of course, there is pressure to restrict access to these reserves,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said.
“But I think our partnership with China will still allow us to maintain the cooperation we have achieved and not only maintain but expand it in an environment where Western markets are closing.”
Western countries have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia’s corporate and financial system since it invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what it calls a special military operation.
Siluanov’s remarks in a television interview were Moscow’s clearest statement yet that it would ask China for help to cushion the impact.
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The two countries have recently intensified cooperation as both have come under heavy Western pressure over human rights and a range of other issues.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Beijing on February 4 and announced a strategic partnership that they said aims to counter US influence and described it as a friendship without borders .
The sanctions against Russian reserves have become one of the most painful measures for the Russian economy.
A month ago, Siluanov said Russia would be able to withstand sanctions thanks to ample reserves and was even considering offering eurobonds to foreign investors once market volatility subsides.
On Sunday, he said the sanctions had frozen around $300 billion out of $640 billion that Russia has in its gold and foreign exchange reserves.
Siluanov also said Russia will honor its government debt obligations and pay rubles to its debt holders until government reserves are released.