Watch CBSN Live

Fast-moving Russian economic collapse causing panic

The value of the Russian currency is in freefall
The value of the Russian currency is in freef... 02:47

There is a grave economic crisis in Russia. The currency has all but collapsed. Panicked Russians are watching prices rise by the hour.

Here's how bad it is: Six months ago, 34 rubles would buy a dollar. On Tuesday, it took almost 70 rubles. So Russians holding rubles have lost half their wealth. In desperation, the Central Bank tried to break the fall, raising interest rates from 10 percent to 17 percent. It didn't work.

Russia is in a vise. The collapse of oil prices wrecked its main source of income and U.S.-led sanctions after the invasion of Ukraine mean Russia can't borrow from western banks.

With the ruble hitting record lows, many Russians rushed to unload their shrinking bank accounts on high ticket items like refrigerators and dishwashers.

"We bought a washing machine for $440," said shopper Alexei Malakhov, an IT specialist. "Now it's already $560."

Signs advertising currencies light next to the exchange office in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

The currency is so unpredictable, one of Russia's largest car dealers has suspended sales. On Tuesday night Apple confirmed it put a stop to online sales.

Monday's interest rate hike was a drastic move in the middle of the night. But it still wasn't enough to stop the damage. It backfired badly, according to Investment analyst Chris Weafer.

"It's had the opposite effect because people perceive it to be a panicky move by the Central Bank," he said.

Farmer Vladimir Yevteev said he may be facing bankruptcy next year. Yevteev supplies cabbage, potatoes and carrots to supermarkets all over Russia.

"It'll be serious," he sighed. "A serious season."

With the ruble at record lows, and interest rates at a staggering 17 percent, he's wondering how he can make ends meet and provide for his family.

"Not only my family, because I have workers and I must take care of their families, too."

Its been a cruel year. A drought has left his warehouse virtually empty.

The lowest oil prices in five years has cut the value of the ruble in half. Yevteev told us he's struggling to buy supplies and equipment.

On top of everything else, because of that huge interest rate hike overnight, businesses here now face crippling interest rates of 17 percent or more. And because U.S. and European sanctions restrict loans to Russian banks and businesses, there's really nowhere else to go.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.