Russians are beginning to feel the pinch as a result of unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western countries in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Following weeks of rising tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a land, sea, and air invasion on February 24, triggering a wave of financial sanctions that have caused the rouble’s value to plummet, inflation to skyrocket, and many people to lose their jobs.
Putin said Russia could withstand the “economic blitzkrieg” in a speech to government ministers broadcast on Wednesday.
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Here’s how the sanctions are affecting Russians’ daily lives:
Inflation is on the rise
Inflation was 2.1 percent between March 5 and 11, according to the official Rosstat statistics agency, the second-highest weekly figure in more than 20 years. Annual inflation rose to 12.5 percent on March 11 from 10.4 percent the previous week, according to the ministry of economics.
Food prices rose 10.4% from February 26 to March 4, according to the business newspaper Kommersant, the highest increase since 1998.
Ivan, a social media user from the southwestern city of Samara, said a can of tuna now costs between 160 and 180 roubles, up from 130 roubles previously. In a Twitter post, he also claimed that sugar was hard to come by in many stores.
Over the last three weeks, the Russian currency has lost an estimated 20% of its value, prompting many retailers to raise their prices.
Procter & Gamble, for example, raised its prices by an average of 40%, according to Kommersant, due to higher logistics and material costs, as well as the rouble’s depreciation. Female hygiene products are now up to 30% more expensive.
According to the TASS news agency, retailers have agreed to a 5% markup on basic goods, such as dairy products and some vegetables, to offset cost increases.
scarcity of medicine
Sasha, a woman from Saint Petersburg who requested anonymity, described a “endless queue” in front of pharmacies as medicine prices rose. She claimed that two of her friends were considering traveling to Finland to obtain medication.
While drug sales are not subject to sanctions, prices are expected to rise, though not as much as other goods, following the suspension of major shipping companies’ services to Russia. Drug prices in the Saratov region reportedly increased by 2.3-6.7 percent, according to local media.
Andrey Baratov, the head of Roszdravnadzor’s regional department, was quoted as saying that he did not expect a “fatal” increase in drug prices, though he did say that authorities had received complaints from citizens about the lack of essential medicines in pharmacies and doubts about the suitability of Russian medicine to replace foreign drugs.
Unemployment is increasing
Following some hesitation, Western nations agreed to remove some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system, limiting the services of Visa, Mastercard, and others.
According to Elina Ribakova, an economist at the Institute of International Finance, such a move, combined with other sanctions, could cause Russia’s economy to contract by 10%.
While official figures aren’t yet available, the closure or departure of a large number of multinational corporations like Apple and IKEA is expected to have a significant impact on employment figures. Before ceasing operations on March 8, US fast-food chain McDonald’s expressed regret for the impact on the 62,000 people employed at its 850 restaurants in Russia.
By the end of 2022, an analyst quoted by Kommersant predicted a “inevitable” drop in wages and a 7% increase in unemployment.
According to Sergei Grishunin, managing director of the National Rating Agency, the number of bankruptcy cases is expected to “explode” in 2022, more than doubling from the previous year, according to local news site Gazeta.ru.
The price of a vacation
Russians’ summer vacations will be different next year, as tour operators expect a 30% increase in prices within the country, according to local media.
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