Friday, January 28

This year, many have to skip the party food. Even in prisons, they are noticing the rise in prices in Putin’s Russia.

Last year, Sergei Borisovich was able to set the table with caviar and other delicacies on New Year’s Eve. This year he contented himself with a bottle of sparkling wine.

Fireworks over Moscow on New Year’s Eve. Most Russians have put a hard year behind them, both in terms of the economy and the corona pandemic.

The 60-year-old works in a factory and is one of many Russians who have had to reduce consumption due to the sharp rise in prices.

When he made his purchases before the New Year, he could only dream of the goodies he set the table with last year. While trawling a food market in Moscow, he had to admit that most things had become too expensive.

– Everything becomes more expensive, but wages do not go up, says the well-adult workforce, who is shocked that a loaf of bread now costs 100 rubles, or almost 12 kroner.

Putin promises better times

New Year’s rockets over Moscow on Red Square, which was empty due to the pandemic. According to the country’s statistics agency, the country has registered 626,000 coronary deaths since the pandemic began two years ago. A government-appointed working group has registered almost half as many, but it uses stricter criteria.

President Vladimir Putin makes no secret of the fact that inflation is worrying. But he also insists that it is moving towards brighter times.

In his New Year’s speech, he did not just talk about the pandemic, which at the end of last year took tens of thousands of lives in Russia. He also said that improving people’s living standards is the government’s most important task in the future.

– This will make Russia even stronger, he stated.

Russia’s standard of living has gradually deteriorated since Western countries imposed sanctions on the country in 2014. The background was Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula.

Norway also supports the sanctions line against Russia.

– There is good reason to continue, to ensure that Russia actually sees the need itself to make changes. They must show positive action, positive change, in order to start easing things, the then Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) told NTB in March 2015 when the EU extended the sanctions from the previous year.

No savings

Russian soldiers guard St. Petersburg on New Year’s Day.

With the pandemic, Russia’s economic downturn has accelerated, which means that it can also be felt in the country’s richest city, the capital Moscow.

In December, inflation reached its highest level since 2016, which has had major consequences for most Russians, who on average earn just under NOK 4,800 a month.

In addition, 43 percent of Russians have no savings, according to a recent survey by Super Job, a Russian website for job recruitment.

The Russian middle class also notices that they have to tighten their belts.

Engineer Karina Strukova, who is now on maternity leave, says that she can no longer buy vegetables from the more exclusive grocery chain Vkusvill. Instead, she shops at the cheap chain Magnit

– We try to cut consumption a bit because we have no other sources of income. We buy fewer gifts, and we go to cheaper stores, says the 30-year-old.

More expensive for Navalny in prison

A hard-pressed opposition hopes Putin’s support will erode due to the very serious contagion situation and the economic problems.

Recently, the rise in prices was also commented on by Putin critic Alexei Navalny. In an Instagram message, he writes that the price of food has risen by at least 40 percent in less than a year in the prison shop. There, the inmates are allowed to shop for a thousand kroner a month to indulge in better food than what they are served. – The great inflation tragedy that pensioners are going through unfolds before my eyes, he writes.

President Vladimir Putin will deliver a New Year’s speech. Here he expressed hope that 2022 will be a better year for the Russians than 2021.

Tougher sanctions?

Recently, Western countries, led by the United States, have threatened even tougher economic sanctions if Russia were to carry out a military intervention in Ukraine.

How this will affect Putin’s grip on power is uncertain. Much of the opposition has now been gagged, partly as a result of the ban on many organizations that have previously served as important opponents of Putin and the Kremlin.

However, opinion polls show that the Russians are concerned about the declining purchasing power, and that the situation affects confidence in the Russian authorities and support for Putin.

But Western sanctions have so far not led to any movement in the Ukraine conflict. On the contrary, the fronts have become even tougher, with Russian forces building along the Ukrainian border and Western fears of a Russian invasion.

Although the Red Square was closed and the pressure of infection very high, people in Moscow gathered in the side streets to welcome the new year.

Party dishes have to wait

Factory worker Sergei Borisovich had to settle for a salad with peas and potatoes on New Year’s Eve.

– I buy some Champagne hut if I can, he told the news agency AFP when he was out shopping before Christmas. Champagne hut is a sparkling wine that was popular in the former Soviet Union.

Red caviar, which the Russians traditionally serve with bread and butter on New Year’s Eve, is now more expensive than in 20 years.

The ingredients for other party dishes, such as “Olivier”, a salad with carrots, potatoes and homemade mayonnaise, cost an estimated 15 percent more than last year, according to figures from Russia’s statistical agency, Rosstat.

Another dish, “Herring under fur”, which consists of, among other things, bacon and beets, has become 25 percent more expensive during the past year.

People dance during the New Year celebrations in St. Petersburg.

Local measures not enough

In an attempt to prevent inflation from spiraling out of control, the government has introduced price caps and export quotas, while the central bank has resorted to several interest rate hikes.

Putin has also ordered the government to reduce inflation from 8 to 4 percent during 2022.

But rising prices also have global causes. The pandemic has both created disruptions in the supply lines and caused many countries to pump more money into the economy to save the business community, which has a driving effect.

The situation is even worse in Russia than in many other countries, as there are not enough market players to push prices down, says Igor Nikolaev at the Department of Strategic Analysis at the analysis company FBK Grant Thornton Russia.

“When there is not enough competition, there are no mechanisms to prevent manufacturers and sellers from raising prices,” says Nikolaev.

But in the market in Moscow there are also those who are happy. Retired Svetlana Knjazeva thinks the Russians are able to adapt to most things.

– I can not say I have a bad life, says the 88-year-old, who has a pension of about 3500 kroner a month.

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