Moscow, Jan.31 (RFE/RL) - The chairman of Russia's Central Bank, Sergei Dubinin, today signed a document allowing commercial banks to collect a commission for the exchange of old $100 US banknotes into new ones.
Central Bank representatives told RFE/RL that Dubinin's decree allows commercial banks to establish the commission rates themselves in rubles as well as in foreign currencies.
However, the nine most important Russian commercial banks introducing the new dollar bills to the country, had earlier committed themselves to limit the commission rate to a maximum of 2 percent. It is not clear if other commercial banks will also make such a committment, since Dubinin's decree does not mention a fixed limit.
The U.S. Treasury has not announced a date for the introduction of new $100 banknotes, which are designed to deter counterfeiters. However, U.S. officials have said the new notes will start being introduced in Feburary or March. Old $100 dollar notes will continue circulating legally, but the measure has created concern in Russia, where $100 bills are largely used for business transactions.
The U.S. embassy in Moscow recognized the right of Russian banks to collect a 2 percent commission for the exchange of old notes. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering said the commission would be used for insurance and the shipping of new notes to Russia.