Cash machines stopped working in rebel-held east Ukraine on Wednesday and businesses no longer accepted credit cards after the authorities in Kiev moved to shut down the banking system.
An AFP journalist found dozens of people queueing up hopefully in the biting cold outside banks around the separatist stronghold of Donetsk.
"I came here at 5:00 am to start queueing up," retiree Nina said, as she waited outside a closed branch of Russian-owned bank Sberbank in the hope that it would open later in the day.
Inside, tellers said that they had been ordered to stop operations Tuesday by Ukraine's central bank.
"We received the order to close the establishment yesterday. There are no more money transfers here," said Valery, a worker at state-run Oschadbank, which was open but not providing cash withdrawals.
Ukraine's central bank on Tuesday ordered all banks to "suspend" their operations in the rebel-held areas as part of a push by Kiev to isolate the separatist regions.
The move followed a November 14 decree by President Petro Poroshenko that also pulled the plug on all social services, such as schools and hospitals, in the towns under insurgent control.
In Donetsk, where shelling between government forces and rebels rumbles on in outlying districts, the vast majority of businesses said their credit card systems were no longer working.
"It worked for half-an-hour this morning but now it seems like it has finished," said Pavel Yalanbenko, an employee at the Amstor supermarket in the city centre.
Only a small handful of hotels and shops said they could still process card payments Wednesday.
"They're trying to make us die of starvation," cried Nellya, 78, who said she had not received her pension in four months.
"My pension was already not enough and now I don't even get that," she said, directing her anger at Poroshenko.
Another pensioner, 72-year-old Oleg, said he, too, had received nothing since August and had been forced to use up his meagre lifetime's savings -- some 30,000 hryvnias (1,600 euros, $2,000) -- that he earned as a miner.
The central bank has said that banking services will only be restored when the areas come back under Ukrainian control, an unlikely scenario as the Kremlin-backed rebels have solidified their power.
Over 4,300 people have been killed and some one million displaced by over seven months of brutal fighting between government forces and insurgents.