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MOSCOW/MINSK, Aug 24 (Reuters) - The Belarusian rouble extended losses on Monday, hitting a record low against the euro as the political crisis following a disputed Aug. 9 presidential election showed little sign of abating.
Thousands took to the streets in towns across Belarus on the weekend to protest Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election in a vote his opponents say was rigged.
The turmoil is threatening to disrupt the country’s already fragile economy, with Belarusians queuing at exchange points to swap the local currency for dollars and euros, which sources said were in short supply.
The Belarus rouble fell 1% against the euro to 3.0160 as of 0845 GMT, having touched a record low of 3.0186. Versus the dollar, the rouble weakened around 2% at 2.5364, a level last seen on April 9.
“There is panic now, demand for foreign currency cash is very high,” a currency dealer in Minsk told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The only bank that has cash is Raiffeisen Bank, which sold it very actively last week. But the last plane carrying cash arrived in Belarus last Friday. Our bank and others wanted to buy foreign cash today but Raiffeisen said they have none.”
A spokesperson for Priorbank, Raiffeisen’s subsidiary in Minsk, declined to comment.
Separately, a source at a state-run Belarusian bank told Reuters his bank had received requests from customers to withdraw $2.5 million but had just $100,000 in its coffers.
The currency weakness points to a brewing financial crisis, making it costlier to service $2.5 billion of bond payments due by end-2020.
Ratings agency Fitch last week predicted further depreciation pressure on the rouble should the political situation worsen, disrupting economic activity. The rouble’s tumble will hurt the highly-dollarised financial sector and erode central bank reserves, Fitch warned.
Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh in MOSCOW and Andrei Makhovsky in MINSK; writing by Katya Golubkova Editing by Sujata Rao and Peter Graff
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