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Ukraine: Impending Currency Change Causes Scramble For Dollars

Kyiv, 26 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Thousands of Ukrainians scrambled to change their karbovantsy into dollars today following a government announcement that it will phase out the karbovanets and introduce a new permanent currency next week.

News agencies reported that many private exchange booths in Kyiv and other major cities accepted only dollars, amid fears of a devaluation of the karbovanets. The karbovanets was trading as low as 220,000 to the dollar at exchange booths in Kyiv, down from 176,000 to the dollar last week, reported the Associated Press.

Ukrainian National Bank chairman Viktor Yushchenko and Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Pynzenyk spoke on national television last night, telling viewers the monetary reform would be "transparent, fair and non-confiscatory."

"No one will lose money in this exchange," promised Yushchenko.

Dmytro Rikhberg, a spokesman for the National Bank, said today the rush was unwarranted. Ukrainians will have two weeks, from September 2 to September 16, to trade in their karbovantsy for the new hryvna currency.

All exchange houses will be ordered to use the official National Bank rate of 100,000 karbovantsy to one new hryvna. The bank says sums of up to 100 million karbovantsy will be exchanged in cash. Larger sums will be paid in hryvna into individual bank accounts.