Ukraine Rebels to Issue Cards to Overhaul Cash-Only Economy

Pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine’s east plan to begin handing out their own money cards in a bid to revive the region’s economy, which has come to rely on cash only in the conflict.

Ukrainian banks stopped servicing individual and corporate accounts and payment cards in rebel-held areas in November 2014. With ATMs idle or vandalized, local residents have had to either rely on cash or travel into government-held areas of Ukraine to use their bank cards.

“We hope that in two or three months pensions, welfare benefits and salaries will be paid with the help of money cards,” the central bank of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said in a statement, separatist-controlled news website DAN reported on Thursday.

The yearlong conflict, in which more than 6,100 people have died and a million have fled their homes, has ravaged Ukraine’s industrial heartland, known as Donbas. With the population relying on humanitarian aid deliveries, locals have switched a lot of their spending to Russian rubles from Ukrainian hryvnias.

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