How Western Sanctions Are Hitting Ordinary Russians

As the US and Europe pile on new sanctions to punish Vladimir Putin for his attack on Ukraine, Russian citizens are lining up at ATMs.
A person holds cash withdrawn from an ATM at a Sberbank branch in Moscow on Feb. 28.
A person holds cash withdrawn from an ATM at a Sberbank branch in Moscow on Feb. 28.
Anton Novoderezhkin via Getty Images

As Western nations announced sanctions in an effort to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive on Ukraine, ordinary Russians across the country formed long lines at ATMs.

According to a Guardian report, a Tinkoff bank ATM in the Metropolis mall in Moscow had already run out of cash by the time its customers were told they could use it to withdraw dollars.

“Those consequences are very unpleasant indeed,” a man told The Telegraph Monday. “I haven’t been using cash for five years, probably it will impact me greatly.”

Earlier in the day, Russia’s central bank more than doubled its interest rates from 9.5% to 20%, in an effort to avert bank runs and support the ruble, which at one point plummeted to 0.88 US cents (or £0.00067). The Russian stock market remained closed Monday, while the U.S. Treasury Department announced further sanctions against the Russian central bank.

Anton Troianovski, Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times, told PBS NewsHour on Sunday that the fluctuation in the value of the ruble “is obviously a big deal” for the country.

“Russians have become used to, and the middle class in Moscow especially, to be able to take inexpensive trips abroad and that’s going to become much harder, if not impossible,” Troianovski said.

According to an ABC News report, about $10 billion (£7.46 billion) was taken out of Russian banks in the past week.

“This isn’t the Soviet Union anymore,” ABC News Foreign Correspondent James Longman said. “This is the 21st century. Russians enjoy living a modern life.”

Longman also detailed the changes Russians are seeing in their daily lives. He said restaurants are now asking their patrons to bring in cash in fear they would not be able to complete a financial transaction with a card, after many countries, including the US, announced some Russian banks would be cut off the SWIFT global payments system.

Customers using mobile systems, including Apple Pay, to pay for public transport in Moscow were warned over the weekend that they could face disruption, as one of the banks handling card payments for the metro, bus and train was subject to the sanctions.

BP said it would divest its shares in a Russian oil giant, and shipment companies, including UPS and FedEx, have stopped shipping to Russia, a move that could see the country even further isolated from the rest of the world.

As Putin puts Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, Russians across the country continued protesting the war he is waging on Ukraine. Almost 1,500 people were arrested on Sunday in 45 different cities, according to to the OVD-Info rights group.

“This isn’t a war by the Russian people,” opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza told the BBC. “This is not a war by the Russian people on the Ukrainian people. This is yet another military adventure, military crime by an unelected, unaccountable, authoritarian, and frankly increasingly deranged dictator in the Kremlin by the name of Vladimir Putin.”


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