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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GUM Wins 1st Auto Money Exchanger

"If you lose each other in our store, meet in the middle of the hall by the fountain," a voice used to announce when one entered Moscow's GUM department store in the Soviet era.

Now, however, shoppers can meet by Russia's first automatic currency exchange machine, located in the middle of the central hall by the fountain.

Stolichny Bank put the Italian-made Sigma machine into operation amid fanfare Wednesday. It can exchange U.S. dollars, Deutsche marks, British pounds and seven other currencies for Russian rubles.

GUM vice president Tatyana Mikhalets said that exchanging money has become a problem since Jan. 1, when a Central Bank decree prohibiting shops to accept hard currency took effect.

Sergei Matsotsky, vice president of IPS, which installed the machine, exchanged $10 for 15,600 rubles automatically in about 15 seconds. He said a sophisticated detector would tell fake bank notes from real ones.

Stolichny Bank can modify the machine's exchange rates at any time from a remote computer, which Matsotsky said would be a big plus in Russia, where sharp fluctuations are common.