Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 28 February 2022

 Russians Scramble for Dollars: ‘I’m Seeing Panic Right Now’

By Valentina Ochirova


Customers lined up at ATMs inside a shopping mall in Moscow.ANDREY RUDAKOV/BLOOMBERG NEWS

MOSCOW—Sanctions imposed on Russia for the Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine quickly began to reverberate among ordinary Russians.

On Monday, Alexander Sokolov, a 33-year-old security guard at the Rive Gauche perfume and cosmetics store on Moscow’s central Tsvetnoy Boulevard, watched all morning as throngs of people stood in line to withdraw money from bank ATMs inside a shopping mall.

A crowd of around 100 people waited in line at an ATM at Tinkoff Bank. Albert Ovchinnikov, 25, a computer graphics and motion designer, was among them. He stood in line with a friend for about an hour hoping to withdraw U.S. dollars from his account.

Mr. Ovchinnikov said the sanctions troubled him, because the price of computer components, for example, had already been rising.

“I'm seeing panic right now,” he said. “Although people are standing quietly in line, they are afraid for their money. That’s why they’re making withdrawals. Some of them want to take their money out to live for a while. Basically, everyone just wants to pull out their money, just in case.”

He said he intended to withdraw 70% of the dollars in his account.

Maria Lopatina, a marketing student, was also in line. By 12:30 p.m., she had been waiting more than 90 minutes to make a withdrawal of U.S. dollars.

Ms. Lopatina worried that sanctions might result in students like her, who study remotely at foreign universities, ultimately being expelled.

“I’m very anxious,” said the 26-year-old who is enrolled in distance learning at a university in England.

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