Belarus has blocked online stores as well as news websites in order to stop a run on shops and banks.
Last week’s decline in the Russian ruble dragged down the Belarusian currency, which forced the authorities to introduce draconian measures, warn people against panic, and prohibit price increases even on imported goods. This is because the country’s economy is heavily dependent on neighbouring Russia.
Among the news websites blocked are Naviny.by, BelaPan.by, Udf.by, Charter97.by, BelarusPartisan.org, and other news websites with independent outlooks.
“Clearly the decision to block the IP addresses could only be taken by the authorities because in Belarus the government has a monopoly on providing IPs,” the BelaPAN news company said in a statement.
The government started the blockage on 19 December, when it announced that foreign currency purchases would be taxed at 30 per cent and instructed exporters to convert 50 per cent of their foreign revenues into the ruble.
Meanwhile, online shopping sites were blocked en masse, with 13 such sites blocked for increasing prices or setting them in US dollars, according to deputy trade minister Irina Narkevich as reported by Interfax.
After queuing for up to four hours, Belarusians cleared out their bank accounts and hit department stores to unload their savings, buying foreign-made housewares and appliances such as televisions and washing machines.
“Me and my wife always argue over what to watch so we’re buying a second television. And the washing machine, how could we resist?” stated a shopper who only wanted to be known as Ivan.
“We have to do something with these Belarusian rubles,” said Alla, a teacher eyeing an expensive multi-cooker.