Soviets crowd banks, offices to trade rubles

January 24, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

MOSCOW -- The Soviet Union nearly ground to a halt yesterday when millions of people swarmed banks, government buildings and workplaces.

The hysteria was sparked when Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev announced this week that 50- and 100-ruble notes were being immediately withdrawn from circulation to help cut inflation.

Working people and pensioners -- many of whom stuff mattresses and socks with thousands of rubles in those denominations -- say the order may hit them the hardest. Citizens have until tomorrow to trade in about 250 rubles of the larger notes. Anything over that amount requires a special appeal.

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