The Ukraine on Thursday became the first Soviet republic to introduce its own crude currency, official coupons that come in every resident's pay envelope and must be used with Soviet rubles to purchase most goods. The measure was described by officials in the second-largest Soviet republic as a remedy for inflation and empty shelves and a step toward replacing the ruble with new Ukrainian money.
Grocery and department stores in the republic were reported suddenly full of scarce food, clothing and appliances, apparently brought out of warehouses to win public support for the coupons.
But residents said the new system generated considerable confusion and sporadic protests as it was introduced across the republic.
In this day of economic separatism, the program is the most far-reaching experiment yet to protect one republic's stores from being stripped by panic buying, black-market speculators and visitors from other republics.
Other republics and cities have increasingly sought to impose stability in their markets with various forms of protectionism. Rationing coupons for essential goods are common in much of the country. Many cities, including Moscow, have sharply restricted shopping by consumers who cannot prove that they are local residents.