(Reuters) – Syria has released new cash into circulation to finance its fiscal deficit, flirting with inflation after violence and sanctions wiped out revenues and led to a severe economic contraction, bankers in Damascus say.

Four Damascus-based bankers told Reuters that new banknotes printed in Russia were circulating in trial amounts in the capital and Aleppo, the first such step since a popular revolt against President Bashar Assad began in 2011.

The four bankers said the new notes were being used not just to replace worn out currency but to ensure that salaries and other government expenses were paid, a step economists say could increase inflation and worsen the economic crisis.