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MOSCOW: The rouble fell to a near three-week low against the dollar on the interbank market on Thursday, albeit amid very low liquidity in pre-market trading, after new US sanctions on Russia forced the Moscow Exchange to halt dollar and euro trading.

The unusual situation means access to reliable dollar-rouble bid and ask prices is difficult to come by, as trading moves exclusively to the over-the-counter (OTC) market.

The central bank will publish the official daily rate closer to 1400 GMT. The dollar’s previous close, on the eve of Wednesday’s national holiday, was 89.10 to the dollar.

On the interbank market, it reached as low as 91.4955 as some banks took speculative positions ahead of the official launch of bids.

New US sanctions against Russia on Wednesday forced an immediate suspension of trading in dollars and euros on its leading financial marketplace, the Moscow Exchange.

The exchange and the central bank rushed out statements on Wednesday within an hour of Washington announcing the new sanctions aimed at cutting the flow of money and goods to sustain Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The central bank also suspended trading in the Hong Kong dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar, but was overall keen to downplay the possible impact of sanctions.

Russian rouble strengthens slightly against the dollar

“Over the past two years, the role of the US dollar and the euro in the Russian market has been consistently declining,” the central bank said on Thursday.

Banks, companies and investors will no longer be able to trade either currency via the central exchange, which offers advantages in terms of liquidity, clearing and oversight. Instead, they will trade OTC, where deals are conducted directly between two parties.

The central bank said dollar and euro turnover on the OTC market had long exceeded their transaction volumes on MOEX.

“The new sanctions should not affect the rouble rate in the medium term,” said Yuri Popov, SberCIB Investment Research strategist.

“In the short term there may be high volatility and wide spreads at exchange counters.” Major brokers have also blocked accounts in dollars, euros and Hong Kong dollars, with deposits and withdrawals unavailable.

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