There is a black market in Russia for dollars and euros with transactions organized on Telegram and money changing hands at train stations

the ruble The plunge and capital controls imposed by Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine have sparked a black market for US dollars and euros as Russians seek to protect their savings, according to reports.

Several chats in the Telegram messaging app have sprung up in which people in Russia arrange to meet on the streets and in other places to buy or sell currencies, according to a recent report from Mediazonaan independent Russian media.

More than 2,000 people took part in talks in Moscow, St. Petersburg and the southern Kuban region, with the largest one based in the Russian capital. Mediazone found that many attendees were setting up meetings at train stations or pointing to areas where deals could take place.

The agreements often differed from official exchange rates, as capital controls sought to limit the ruble’s decline.

“I will sell $2,000 at 132 rubles. Northwest of Moscow, quick exchange,” read one message. “I will sell $200,130 to the Ozerki metro in St. Petersburg,” read another. “I will sell 200 euros at the exchange price. VDNKh,” said a message, referring to the Moscow exhibition on the achievements of the national economy where a metro station is located.

Numerous online exchange channels, groups and bots appeared in the first two weeks of March, filled with requests to “exchange currencies” and offers to “buy dollars”, according to The Russian financial daily Kommersant.

Some chains said they had up-to-date information on “possible places to buy a dollar”. In one of these chains, a poster proposed an appointment with a currency exchange office near a McDonald’s to buy dollars at 150 rubles.

Law enforcement told Kommersant that arranging currency exchange on social media and messaging apps can fall under laws against “illegal banks” and criminal penalties can be up to seven days. years in prison.

But the emergence of black currency markets highlights the strong demand for dollars and euros as Russians scrambled to protect their savings, marred early in the war by long queues at ATMs.

The value of the ruble fell after Russia launched its war against Ukraine on Feb. 24, sending the currency below 1 cent against the greenback. The Kremlin has imposed a series of capital controls to halt large currency outflows, such as banning Russians from transferring foreign currency abroad and requiring exporters to sell 80% of their income in foreign currency.

The ruble has since rebounded to near pre-invasion levels, thanks in part to foreign currency inflows from energy sales, which have largely evaded Western sanctions. But Kremlin controls on the ruble have kept traders and analysts skeptical of its rally.

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