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Russian assets rise on prospects for further Ukraine diplomacy

Russia's ruble firmed on Monday and shares rose, supported by the prospect of further diplomacy to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis.

At 0810 GMT, the ruble was around 2.2 percent stronger against the dollar at 65.51 and gained 2 percent to trade at 74.45 versus the euro.

An employee counts Russian ruble banknotes at an office in Siberia in December, 2014.
Ilya Naymushin | Reuters

The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 2.9 percent to 850 points, while the ruble-based MICEX traded 0.8 percent higher at 1,769 points.

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France have agreed to meet in Belarus on Wednesday to try to broker a peace deal for Ukraine, days after talks in Moscow produced no breakthrough in the nearly year-long conflict.

"Everyone is aware that investor sentiment in the next three days will be influenced by the news flow related to the forthcoming negotiations on Ukraine," Stanislav Kleshchev, head investment analyst at VTB 24 bank in Moscow, wrote in a note.

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"The very fact that the meeting will take place means that many compromises have already been reached."

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Kleshchev said, however, that even if the negotiations yield results, the key question for the market would be how much time it would take for Russia to normalize its relations with the West and for international capital markets to become accessible to Russian companies and banks.

Other analysts are less optimistic about the peace talks, saying that a failure to reach a settlement could see the ruble slide back towards 70 to 75 rubles per dollar.

Brent crude oil was trading around 0.5 percent lower on Monday at around $57.50 a barrel. Oil is one of Russia's chief exports, and hence oil price swings have a significant effect on the national currency.