Russian citizens have gathered 4.1 trillion rubles, a record-breaking amount, in foreign accounts as of 1 November, Russia’s Central Bank said in a report.
The current exchange rate puts this amount at €61.9 billion. This is a record since at least 2018 when the Central Bank started publishing these stats. In comparison, as of 1 January 2022 Russians had only half of that: 2.2 trillion rubles or €25.9 billion at the exchange rate from back then.
In October, Russians moved 303 billion rubles (€4.58 billion) to their own and family members’ accounts. It is almost 7 times higher than in October last year. The volume of funds that was transferred out of Russia was lower than in February and September (€5 billion and €6.05 billion correspondingly but much larger than in March (€2.6 billion). Overall, the Russian Central Bank calculates that Russian nationals have transferred 2.3 trillion rubles (€34.7 billion) out of the country since the war began.
This data is far from being complete. The Central Bank indeed sees overseas transactions but the information about how much money Russians keep in their foreign accounts is not fully available, head of the National Payment Council Alma Obayeva told Novaya Gazeta Europe.
“The Central Bank can calculate the amount in a foreign account if the person registers it with the Russian tax office or if it obtains data about it via information exchanges between states,” the economist clarified. Russia exchanges data with 75 countries and territories but Georgia, Armenia, and Kazakhstan are not among them.
Moreover, this statistics does not take into account natural persons’ transactions to their other accounts and transactions through payment systems. The Central Bank stopped publishing full data on transnational transactions of natural persons after the 1st quarter of 2022.
In 2021, Russian tax residents moved $35 billion abroad, while transactions between their accounts reached 397.6 billion rubles (€6 billion). Therefore, we can make a guess that the Central Bank now only discloses information about 15% of the natural persons’ transactions that it has at hand.
The Central Bank also does not publish information about transactions through cryptocurrencies, Obayeva notes.
Data from other national central banks can also help us to calculate the increase rates in overseas transactions. According to the local central bank, transactions from Russia to Georgia went up by almost 3 times since the mobilisation began in Russia. In August this amount stood at $110 million, while in September it went up to $173 million and even further in October, $299 million.
Moreover, $327 million was sent from Russia to Armenia in August, $416 million in September, and $482 million in October. Kazakhstan has a similar trend: $69 million in August, $76 million in September, and around $100 million in October.
The increase in transactions is not just linked to the mobilisation. “It is firstly linked to citizens going abroad. Secondly, it is about opening accounts by those who want to have a Visa or a Mastercard to use overseas and for shopping. Thirdly, it is business and parallel import,” Obayeva says.
On 5 December, Russian senator Andrey Klishas told Vedomosti that Moscow can draft measures which “can make overseas stays less comfortable” for those Russians who left the country during the mobilisation.
“Many of them fled but continue to work in Russian companies remotely,” he said. “Can we change laws in this regard and limit schemes that allow people to work there [abroad] and get money from here and we cannot understand whether they pay all their taxes? We can.”
It is not known exactly how many Russians live abroad but continue to work for Russian companies. According to the latest data, 45,000 Russians opened bank accounts in Georgia in the first 9 months of 2022. In October, Tbilisi said that 112,000 Russians are currently residing in the country; they came between January and September. In November, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili noted that around 700,000 Russian citizens arrived in Georgia after the Kremlin gave the order to start drafting people, 100,000 of them decided to stay.
More than 70,000 Russians opened bank accounts in Armenia, Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan said in July. Kazakhstan has not lately reported such numbers. In November, Kazakh Labour Minister Tamara Duisenova noted that around 400,000 Russians entered the country after the draft order, while around 100,000 stayed there.