Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 162

The ruble fell yesterday to 13.46 against the dollar, a fall of well over 50 percent since the effective devaluation announced on August 17. (Financial Times, September 4) A two-month freeze on withdrawals by Russian account-holders from their accounts with six major commercial banks came into force yesterday. The Central Bank ordered the transfer of household deposits from the six banks to Sberbank, the state-backed savings bank. The six are Inkombank, Menatep, Mosbiznesbank, Most Bank, Promstroibank and SBS-Agro. The move is part of an effort by the government to prevent the collapse of the banking system, but the six banks in question reacted angrily to what they called “blatant expropriation.” Even when the money has been transferred to Sberbank, account-holders will not be able to access their funds, which means that their savings are certain to suffer a further erosion in value as the ruble continues to fall. The only consolation is that very few Russians had entrusted their money to banks in the first place, most preferring to keep their savings in dollars under their mattresses or in Swiss bank accounts. In July, an opinion poll found that only 15 percent of Russians said they had savings and even fewer had entrusted their money to a Russian bank.