Cyprus Banks Reopen Following Two Weeks Closure Under Armed Guard - Live Webcasts

Moments ago Cyprus banks reopened, under heavy guard, without signs of a stampede. However, since as was made clear yesterday, all bank branches will serve merely as glorified ATMs, allowing for a maximum €300 cash withdrawal and practically no outbound cash transactions allowed, there has been no stampede, and no lines as the bulk of services provided legally are merely what one can find at an automated teller machine. The question is whether the five shipping container full of ECB cash delivered last night into the country will be enough to cover the cash-strapped public's demands, and for how long.

A picture courtesy of Michelle Caruso-Cabrera on the ground in Larnaca captures quite well that while one may not have "stampedes" at least not yet as the banks still are stocked with cash, the lines most certainly are there:

The WSJ writes: "Cyprus's banks were bracing for a stampede of nervous savers as lenders on the island reopened after a two-week long hiatus. But on the streets of the Cypriot capital early Thursday, there was little sign of panic with only a handful of depositors--mostly pensioners--waiting for the banks to formally reopen at noon (1000 GMT) local time. Gregos Hadjisophoklis, a retiree, was queuing outside the central branch of the Bank of Cyprus Pcl, the island's largest lender, since nine in the morning, unaware that the bank would open later than its usual business hours. But he was prepared to wait: he badly needed cash to pay his rent and buy food. "I have to get money because I have no [cash] card. It's been very difficult," Mr. Hadjisophoklis said as he stood in the pedestrian area in front of the bank astride the city's main Ledra Street shopping district. "There may be no one here at the moment but it's early; more will come." Naturally, the full impact of the reopening will not be made apparent for days, when the true liquidity situation of the local system is exposed, however for the time being no panic is evident as the local government has managed to avert a chaotic crisis and loss of all confidence.

AFP adds:

Cyprus banks have reopened under armed guard after a long lockdown, with harsh curbs on withdrawals to stop depositors punished by a eurozone bailout from draining the island's coffers dry.

Bank tellers urged customers not to take out their frustrations when the doors swung open at noon (local time) on Thursday for the first time in 12 days, while authorities trucked in shipping containers full of euros under heavy security.

World markets were jittery over the crisis, which has seen capital controls imposed for the first time by a eurozone economy in order to prevent financial meltdown after the 10-billion-euro EU-IMF rescue package.

Most banks in Nicosia had between one and three guards posted at their entrances early morning, some of them carrying weapons - an alien sight in the generally peaceful east Mediterranean tourist destination.

Banks opened unusually late to allow time to prepare for the new cash curbs and are set to stay open for six hours until 6pm (local time).

Cypriot authorities appealed on television late Wednesday for people to give priority to the elderly as many did not have credit cards and had to withdraw their money over the counter.

Authorities imposed severe restrictions to prevent a run on the banks that could wreak havoc on the island's already fragile economy, with daily withdrawals limited to 300 euros.

The restrictions - which last for a week before they are reviewed - also ban the cashing of cheques and ordered those travelling abroad not to take more than 1,000 euros out of the country.

Under a deal agreed in Brussels on Monday, Cyprus must raise 5.8 billion euros to qualify for the full 10-billion-euro loan from the troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Depositors with more than 100,000 euros in the top two banks - Bank of Cyprus and Laiki or 'Popular Bank' - face losing a large chunk of their money.

Five shipping containers reportedly filled with billions of euros were delivered to the central bank late Wednesday, an AFP photographer said. A helicopter and police cars accompanied the cash convoy.

Banking employees union ETYK said staff were ready to go back to work but urged the public not to blame them for the tight controls.

Unlike in other European countries Cypriot tellers are not housed behind glass barriers.

"We must all keep in mind that as bank employees, we are not responsible but on the contrary colleagues are themselves victims of criminal acts and/or omissions that led to this destruction and many are in a very tragic situation," said an ETYK union statement.

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And for those who would rather avoid the media spin, and see for themselves the bank lines in Cyprus without narration, here are two live webcasts, one from RT and one from local Mega TV: