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Ukraine: Long Lines, Closed Shops Mark Introduction Of New Currency

Kyiv, 2 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Ukrainians found many closed stores and exchange offices today as the country's new currrency, the hryvna, was introduced, report Western news agencies.

Long lines were reported in Kyiv outside post offices and the few banks that were selling the currency this morning. The lines diminished later in the day as more exchanges were opened.

Dmytro Rikhberg, a spokesman for the National Bank of Ukraine, said the exchanges were operating well and called the introduction of the new currency "a successful start of reforms." Meanwhile, many shops were closed as store clerks posted new prices.

The National Bank says people will have until September 16 to trade in the existing karbovanets currency for hryvna notes at some 20,000 exchange points across Ukraine. A temporary price freeze has been imposed on all goods and services in a bid to calm any unease about the new currency.

National Bank officials say one hyrvna is to be worth about 100,000 karbovanets, eliminating five zeroes from the national currency.

After the hryvna has been integrated into the economy, bank officials say its value is expected to stabilize at around 1.75 to 1.76 to the U.S. dollar. The value of the karbovanets has been steady this year as a result of low inflation which followed the adoption of tight monetary policies.