Maneuvering to keep the Russian economy afloat amid Western sanctions and falling oil prices, the Central Bank of Russia reversed course on Friday, lowering its key interest rate after a year of increases.

The bank lowered the rate by 2 percentage points, to 15 percent, taking the markets by surprise and putting pressure on the ruble.

Most analysts had expected the central bank to keep interest rates high to help prop up the ruble, which has been plummeting in value against nearly every other currency in the world. But the bank was faced with only bad options, as high rates seemed to be pushing the banking sector toward a financial crisis.

The move suggested that the bank saw a financial crisis as a more pressing worry than the high inflation caused by the declining value of the ruble. Inflation is now running about 13 percent.

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