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Exchange offices in Donetsk sell foreign currency without restrictions, witnesses say

September 24, 2014, 16:08 UTC+3 DONETSK

The National Bank of Ukraine restricted the sale of foreign currency to 220 dollars per person, but nobody looks eager to take currency to the banks

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© ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsyn

DONETSK, September 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Purchasing any amounts of foreign currency at exchange offices in Donetsk is no problem as follows from the latest eye-witness accounts.

Most of the operating exchange offices are in the center of the city and foreign currencies (rubles, euros, dollars) can be purchased from them without restrictions. However, there is nothing that might look like panic buying, because many local residents are out of cash.

Only one Ukrainian bank — Oshchadbank — is open in the city. It continues operations on instructions from the National Bank of Ukraine. Its staff says cash transfers can be received only in the Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, but not any other foreign currency.

In the meantime, in Kiev, retail clients line up to exchange offices after the National Bank restricted the sale of foreign currency to 220 dollars per person, but nobody looks eager to take currency to the banks, says Ukraine’s on-line media resource Vesti.

The cashier at one of Kiev’s exchange offices told Vesti they do not sell dollars at the exchange rate established today (13.4-13.5 hryvnias for one dollar).

“Even if we were prepared to sell at this rate, not a dime is available. Nobody has sold us anything for more than a week,” the cashier said.

At local banks’ cash desks dollars are available in theory, says Vesti, but in practice clients are told there are none on offer. Instead people are invited to buy euros, while just a week ago the euro was impossible to come by.

“We do have euros, but we sell no more than 150 per person in order to meet the 3,000-hryvnia restriction,” a bank office said. Another bank was prepared to sell a euro equivalent of 15,000 hryvnias. “The restriction applies to dollars only. We keep selling the euro as usual,” the cashier said.

Experts remark that the NBU resolution states quite clearly the restriction applies to hryvnia’s exchange for all foreign currencies, but at the same time acknowledge that the bankers who abuse the rule will easily go unpunished. No mechanism to enforce the resolution is in place.

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