Russian Economist Drinks to Country's Stock Market Collapse on Live TV: 'Rest in Peace'

A Russian economist toasted the "death" of Russia's stock market live on television in a moment that has gone viral on social media.

Alexander Butmanov appeared on RBC, a popular business news channel in Russia, to discuss stock-trading strategies on Wednesday.

Asked by host Elina Tikhonova if he would remain in the profession amid the financial turbulence sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Butmanov joked: "At worst, I will work as Santa Claus, as I did 25 years ago [during the 1998 crisis]."

He went on: "Joking aside, I'm opening my sparkling water here to toast to the death of Russia's stock market. You were interesting to us. Now rest in peace, dear friend!"

The gesture appeared to shock Tikhonova, who said: "I won't comment on this [...] I don't want to believe it."

RBC was an independent finance-focused Russian channel until it was sold in 2017. It now largely toes the Kremlin's line.

A clip of the moment posted on Twitter has amassed almost 300,000 views.

It comes as stock trading on Moscow Exchange remained largely closed for the fourth day in a row on Thursday.

A limited range of operations would be available, the Central Bank of Russia had said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

The U.S. and its allies have escalated financial sanctions on Russia. Its assault on Ukraine entered an eighth day on Thursday.

They ousted major Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system, limited exports to Russia and restricted Moscow's use of foreign currency reserves.

The unprecedented penalties led to the ruble plummeting, and ordinary Russians are feeling the impact as they struggle to withdraw cash from ATMs and buy goods.

"We're cutting off Russia's largest banks from the international financial system; preventing Russia's Central Bank from defending the Russian ruble, making Putin's $630 billion war fund worthless," President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

"The ruble has already lost 30 percent of its value, the Russian stock market has lost 40 percent of its value, and trading remains suspended. The Russian economy is reeling, and Putin alone is the one to blame."

Meanwhile, a growing number of companies have taken various steps to limit operations in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine—including Apple, Google and Disney.

And on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the launch of "Task Force KleptoCapture" targeting Russian oligarchs.

The interagency initiative will be dedicated to enforcing sanctions, export restrictions and economic countermeasures designed to freeze Russia out of global markets, the DOJ said.

"The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

"We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war. Let me be clear: if you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable."

Economist toasts death of Russian stock market
Economist Alexander Butmanov drank to the "death" of Russia's stock market during a live television appearance. RBC/Twitter