News / Europe

Belarus Shoppers Panic as Ruble Collapses

Belarusians check their numbers in the line to buy a foreign currency outside an exchange booth in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Belarusians check their numbers in the line to buy a foreign currency outside an exchange booth in Minsk, Belarus, Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Panicky shoppers in Belarus are buying up consumer goods and scarce food supplies as fast as they can, after a sharp devaluation of the ruble failed to halt a slide in the national currency's value.

Weeks of economic crisis have prompted many Belarusians to buy foreign currency - usually U.S. dollars or euros - to protect themselves against the ruble's plunge.  The government announced Tuesday the official exchange rate would be 4,930 rubles for $1 as of Wednesday, compared to the previous rate of 3,155 rubles, but that triggered an immediate shift in the ruble's unofficial or black-market price, which now stands at about 6,500 rubles per dollar.

President Alexander Lukashenko unexpectedly announced Wednesday that he may release hundreds of political activists who have been jailed since street protests that greeted the president's re-election five months ago.  This is being interpreted as a signal that Mr. Lukashenko may try to barter the prisoners' freedom for financial aid from the West.

This week, Belarusians hoping to protect their savings tried to buy foreign currency before possible further devaluations erode the value of their rubles.  Only limited supplies of foreign currency normally are available in state-regulated shops, but those currencies have now disappeared.  

Retail prices on imported goods and many domestic supplies already have risen sharply, but consumers descended on shops Wednesday, using their ruble savings to buy any goods before prices could rise again - everything from appliances to jewelry, and foods such as rice and frozen chicken.

Word that Mr. Lukashenko is considering a mass release of political prisoners came in a speech the president delivered in Kazakhstan, but it is unclear which detainees might be affected.  

Dozens of people rounded up after the election-day protests in December have been convicted and sentenced, but many others are awaiting trial.  

Among those already sentenced is opposition leader Andrei Sannikov, an opposition candidate who was reported to have the second highest vote total in the disputed presidential ballot.

Human-rights groups and Western governments have condemned Mr. Lukashenko for the crackdown on protesters.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs