Brawls erupt as Russians swoop on Belarusian shops

Russians have descended on Belarusian border towns to buy up foodstuffs, clothes and other goods after prices fell sharply following the devaluation of the Belarusian ruble.

Huge lines have been reported as stores jack up prices due to the rising demand, said. Conflicts often erupt between Russians and locals who are irked by the situation, sometimes leading to brawls.

A fight broke out recently in the Belarusian city of Mstistavl, 13 km from the Russian border, in a supermarket where a huge line of Russian ‘visitors’ was queuing for milk. The row began when a local woman asked to get to the front of the line to buy a bottle of milk.

In the spring, the Belarusian government devalued the national currency by more than a third, froze prices on some staple foods and introduced fuel rationing to keep the lid on a deepening financial crisis which followed generous increases in wages to state employees ahead of the December presidential elections.

President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday Belarus will allow its currency to float freely from next month.

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