Russia exchange traded funds sank Monday after Standard & Poor’s lowered its rating on the country’s sovereign debt BB+, the highest junk rating, from BBB-, the lowest investment grade. That was good for Russia’s first junk rating in a decade.

At one point during Monday’s session the four worst-performing ETFs of the day were Russia funds, including the Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX). A deeper look at RSX and other Russia reveals some traders were prepared for at least one of the major ratings agencies to drag Russia to junk territory.

Through Jan. 23, RSX, the largest Russia ETF, had lost over $92 million in assets since the start of the year. On a related note, some adventurous traders put new money to work in theDirexion Daily Russia Bear 3x Shares (NYSEArca: RUSS), the triple-leveraged bearish answer to RSX. For the 30-day period ending Jan. 23, RUSS saw positive creation activity, according to Direxion data.

Traders’ nerves were tested with RUSS because prior to Monday, RSX had been showing signs of life and entering Monday’s session, RUSS was the third-worst performer this month among Direxion’s leveraged bear ETFs. [Russia ETFs Shake-off Bad News]

With Monday’s savage repudiation of Russia ETFs, RSX and rival Russia funds appear vulnerable to more, and potentially significant, downside. That would restore some luster to RUSS, an ETF that is still down 15% this year even with the benefit of Monday’s surge of nearly 24%.

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