Difficulties with Ukrainian currency exchange in Latvia

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Ukrainian war refugees have limited access to cash for the time being because the possibility of changing Ukrainian hryvnia in Latvia is provided only by individual currency exchange companies, Latvian Radio reported March 8.

One of the areas being heavily affected by war is the national currency in the involved countries. “Both local residents and the global financial markets are less likely to trust it, and there is some uncertainty about the objective rate,” Bank of Latvia spokesman Jānis Silakalns said.

At the beginning of last week, none of the foreign exchange companies in Latvia changed the Russian or Belarusian rubles or Ukrainian hryvnias. Silakalns said that currency exchange in Latvia is in the hands of private companies and the country does not regulate this area.

The Bank of Latvia calls on companies to ensure the service as far as possible, and some companies do. Ukrainian war refugees can also pay with card.

Andris Arhipenko, chairman of Tavex currency exchange company, said that Ukrainian hryvnia had been introduced at the company the previous week and that so far around 100 families had used the opportunity.

“We are currently being written to by all European countries, noticing that we are doing this. Of course, people have hryvnia and are trying to get rid of them, but unfortunately we can't help everyone. Our activities have a specific objective of helping Ukrainian families arriving in Latvia. We have also set a limit of €50 for one family so that we can cover as many families as possible. In fact, we are currently changing pieces of paper to the euro, because there is a high probability we will not be able to exchange the hryvnia we buy from people,” said the head of Tavex.

The Bank of Latvia spokesman Silakalns said that this problem will soon be viewed at the government level. 

Starting this week, there will also be an option to get financial support from local governments. "Where necessary, a crisis benefit, the size of which varies in each municipality [will be provided], or a benefit for the provision of a guaranteed minimum income. As a result, some of this cash support will also be available,” said a representative of the Latvian Association of Local Governments, Ilze Rudzīte.

The issues is partly assisted by donations from Latvian residents to the “ziedot.lv” platform, said the portal manager Rūta Dimanta.

"We get shop-donated gift cards and buy them ourselves to hand out gift cards to people so they can buy what they need. Because they don't have a bank account here, they don't have a telephone connection here. There is a need for primary aid here and now,” said Dimanta.


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