Russia bans currency exchange booths, ends an era

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Russia introduced a ban on Friday outlawing small currency exchange booths, which have been used widely since the early 1990s during roller-coaster devaluations of the Russian ruble.

Russia's Central Bank announced the measure in April, saying that the ubiquitous exchange points, often simple dirty kiosks on the street, needed to become full-fledged bank branches or close altogether.

The move aims to cut down on crime and fraudulent transactions widespread in exchange booths.

"There were many complaints about fraud and crime," Mikhail Sukhov of Central Bank's licensing department told the Interfax news agency.

Starting Friday, companies running exchange points without offering additional banking services will not have the right to operate, Sukhov said, advising people to change their money elsewhere.

The exchange booths mushroomed during the economic reforms of the 1990s as the ruble's value fluctuated drastically and people rushed to convert wages into more stable currencies, most commonly the US dollar.

High demand for dollars often led to long lines outside the exchange booths, which numbered over 10,000 between 1995 and 1998, most of them in large cities.

© 2010 AFP

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