Russia Marks Crimea Annexation With A Banknote Rapidly Losing Value

Dec 23, 2015
Originally published on December 23, 2015 3:03 pm

Russia is issuing a new 100-ruble banknote commemorating the annexation of Crimea.

But the new bill may serve as a reminder of the country's current economic pain. At the present rate of exchange, the 100-ruble note is worth about $1.41 — around half of what it was worth in February 2014, just before Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine.

The price reflects the sharp devaluation of the ruble because of the plunge in the price of oil, Russia's primary export, and the effect of Western sanctions imposed because of Crimea's annexation and Russian military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The front of the note pictures a Crimean tourist attraction called the Swallow's Nest, a summer folly put up for a Baltic German oil baron in 1912. It's built in the shape of a fairy-tale castle, perched on a scenic clifftop. The back portrays the Sunken Ships Monument in Sevastopol Bay, the site of Russia's naval base.

Russia's central bank says it plans to print about 20 million of the new banknotes.

It's not the first time the bank has commemorated the annexation of Crimea in legal tender. Last year, the bank minted new 10-ruble coins, dedicated to what Russians regard as the reunification of the peninsula with its rightful parent country.

The new banknotes will supplement the current 100-ruble note, which pictures the world-famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. That note was the subject of a minor scandal in July 2014 when a Russian lawmaker complained that it was "pornographic."

The reverse side of the bill features an engraving of the famous statue of Apollo and his chariot mounted on the Bolshoi Theater's portico. The lawmaker said that a close look at the bill reveals that Apollo's tunic is raised, exposing "intimate parts of the body."

Up-skirt images shouldn't be a problem with the new bills — but continued devaluation probably will.

If world oil prices remain below $40 a barrel, the ruble could depreciate even more in the coming year, analysts predict. Even if prices average around $45, which is what the central bank is hoping, Russia's economy looks to stay in recession through most of 2016.

On Monday, the European Union extended sanctions against Russia for six more months, a punishment that, among other things, blocks key Russian banks and businesses from obtaining credit from European banks.

With a castle in the air on one side and a monument to sunken Russian ships on the other, the new 100-ruble banknote may be a reminder of the price Russians are paying for the acquisition of Crimea.

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