Riot police detain forex mortgage protesters in Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Riot police broke up a demonstration by holders of foreign currency mortgages and detained around 10 people after protesters briefly blocked the road in front of the country’s central bank in Moscow, a Reuters witness said on Monday.

Around a hundred protesters gathered outside the bank to demand their loans be converted to rouble mortgages from dollar and euro ones or that their repayments be recalculated using a different rouble exchange rate to take account of the Russian currency’s sharp fall in the last 18 months.

Protesters have previously targeted the banks where they first took out their mortgages.

Their plight undermines President Vladimir Putin’s claim to have overseen a consistent rise in living standards in the 15 or so years since he came to power. That is uncomfortable for the Kremlin in a year when Russia holds a parliamentary election.

The rouble has lost over half its value against the dollar since September 2014 due to falling prices for oil and Western sanctions over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.

The protesters, who are paid in rouble but repay their loans in foreign currency, chanted “Putin, help!” targeting their wrath at the central bank. A Reuters witness saw some of them dragged into police vans.

The central bank in January 2015 advised banks to convert their clients’ dollar mortgages into rouble ones using more favorable exchange rates.

Reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Andrew Osborn