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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid