Russia is on the brink of its first debt default since 1998 as the Sunday deadline to make a $100m interest payment seems certain to be missed.
Russia has the money and is willing to pay, but sanctions make it impossible to get the payments to international creditors.
The Kremlin has been determined to avoid a first default since 1998, and a major blow to the nation’s prestige.
The Russian finance minister branded the situation “a farce”.
Russia has seemed on an inevitable path to default since sanctions were first imposed by the US and EU following the invasion of Ukraine.
These restricted the country’s access to the international banking networks which would process payments from Russia to investors around the world.
The Russian government has said it wants to make all of its payments on time, and so far it has succeeded.About $40bn of Russia’s debts are denominated in dollars or euros, with around half held outside the country.
A default would be the first since 1998, at the chaotic end of Boris Yeltsin’s regime.
The $100m interest payment was due on 27 May. Russia says the money was sent to Euroclear, a bank which would then distribute the payment to investors.
But that payment has been stuck there, according to Bloomberg News, and creditors have not received it.
“They have not got it,” says Jay Auslander, a US lawyer who has worked on many government debt cases. “And the overwhelming probability is they’re not going to get it.”If this money has not arrived within 30 days of the due date, that is, Sunday evening, that will widely be considered a default.
Euroclear wouldn’t say if the payment had been blocked, but said it adheres to all sanctions.