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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid