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Is Russia's Currency On Its Way To Collapse?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Russian president Vladimir Putin has succeeded in taking a bite of Ukraine, but Russia may be paying a price.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

World economic sanctions imposed because of Ukraine have come at a non-comfortable moment for Russia. Crashing oil prices have been dragging down the Russian ruble. The government has had to intervene in currency markets.

INSKEEP: So we will ask this morning what that means for Russians. And we start with NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROAD NOISE)

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: As people go about their daily business in the Russian capital, there's a constant reminder of what's happening to their money. Banks and currency exchanges post their rates for the dollar and the euro on overhead signs with glowing red and gold numbers. Here on Tsvetnoy Boulevard, the signs can't even keep up with the drop in the ruble. This is Mikhail, a 26-year-old financial consultant who was at a local bank to pay his mortgage in U.S. dollars or USD.

MIKHAIL: It's a good time for those who have earnings in USD or in euro, and it's a really bad time for those who have some obligations or loans in foreign currency.

FLINTOFF: He declined to give his last name because he was afraid it might hurt his business. Mikhail says the ruble depreciation is hurting him, but like many people, he seems to be taking it in stride. Still, he says the situation doesn't compare with what his parents faced in 1998 when Russia's currency suddenly collapsed and the country defaulted on its debts.

MIKHAIL: Many people are - well, try to prepare for this and started converting their savings into foreign currency in September, in October, so it's not so unexpected like in 1998.

FLINTOFF: Marina Vladislavovna, a 55-year-old engineer, remembers that time well.

MARINA VLADISLAVOVNA: (Speaking Russian through translator) We're not oligarchs who have big money. They've probably already protected themselves. And speaking of what you and I have, we shouldn't make a fuss.

FLINTOFF: So far, that seems to be what most people are doing, but it's not clear what they'll do if things get worse. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.