Ukraine ceasefire holding as country’s currency collapses

A local woman is overcome with emotion as she looks at blood stains and damage around a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on road leading to the airport. Picture: MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA

A local woman is overcome with emotion as she looks at blood stains and damage around a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ on road leading to the airport.
Picture: MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA

Ukraine came under increasing economic pressure from a collapsing currency and a threat to its gas supplies from the Kremlin on Wednesday, just as a long-awaited ceasefire took hold in the east.

As the truce appeared to be coming into force, the Ukrainian army reported no combat fatalities in the past 24 hours, but the news did nothing to halt a currency collapse that forced the central bank to ban most trading. In rebel-held eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists were withdrawing heavy guns from the front. Kiev said it was too early to do likewise, but its acknowledgement that most of the front was quiet suggested it too could implement a truce that had appeared stillborn when the rebels launched a major offensive last week.

The cautious good news from the front has come amid dire economic consequences for a country teetering on bankruptcy. With the hryvnia currency in free fall as investors flee, the central bank called a halt by banning nearly all commercial currency trading until the end of the week. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said the ban was bad for the economy. He had learned about it on the Internet and would demand an explanation from Central Bank Chief Valeria Gontareva.

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