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Euro Attracts Novelty Interest

January 3, 2002

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (AP) _ Even in Yekaterinburg on the edge of Asian Russia, the European Union’s new unified currency attracted some interest on Thursday _ possibly out of a sense of adventure.

At Alfa-Bank, 11 people came in to change rubles for euros the first day the bank offered them, said cashier Natalya Glukhova. In all, they exchanged rubles for about 1,200 euros worth $1,080, Glukhova said.

Why they wanted the currency in this city on the western edge of Russian Asia wasn’t clear. Glukhova speculated they were preparing for European vacations. Another employee had a more psychological spin.

``It seems to me that the majority of the people buying euros are driven by excitement, the desire for a new feeling, novelty,″ said Tatyana Golovach.

The U.S. dollar and the German mark have been the foreign currencies of choice in the post-Soviet years.

In Yekaterinburg, some exchange mavens paid no attention to the euro _ such as the half-dozen tough-looking young guys outside the banks selling dollars for five or 10 kopecks under the bank rates.

``We haven’t seen euros with our own eyes, and they don’t interest us,″ said one of the men.

But one local banker said the euro is likely to attract a lot of interest, including from the wrong people.

``Certainly there will be counterfeits. In my view, it would be a shame not to make counterfeits and not travel through all of Europe with a single currency in your hand,″ Irina Yurasova of Uralvneshtorgbank said with a smile.

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