Kam směřuje česká politika a co můžeme očekávat v nejbližší době? Jak se naše společnost vypořádá s problematikou sucha? A co bude pro svět znamenat, pokud KLDR získá jaderné zbraně? Jednoduše jsou témata, která se dotýkají každého z nás. Naši přední analytici proto pro Vás pravidelně připravují stručné komentáře a v kostce přináší náš pohled na věc.

Life In Russia Under Sanctions

From September 2020 until December 2022, I was living and working in Moscow. Life was relatively normal and calm until Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine and the start of what he called a “special military operation” on February 24, 2022. After that, sanctions began to pour in. In Western media, Russia was shown to be struggling to get by after the sanctions; grocery stores empty, lines for bread and sugar, essential goods in short supply. Russian media, on the other hand, downplayed the sanctions, saying Russia was stronger and doing better than ever before. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

At least in bigger cities life did not change that much under Western sanctions. Certain international companies no longer did business in Russia, officially, but replacements soon flooded the market. The most obvious example of this is McDonald’s being replaced by Вкусно и точка (Vkusno i tochka – Tasty, period). It wasn’t the same as McDonald’s, but it was close enough.

Some companies, like Coca-Cola, left in name only. Sure, there is no more Coca-Cola being made in Russia, but a Coca-Cola subsidiary company Добрый (Dobry – Kind), which in the past produced mainly fruit juices, began to produce their own cola, orange soda, and lemon-lime soda. These “new” sodas were close if not identical in taste to Coke, Fanta, and Sprite. Dobry, being under the Coca-Cola umbrella, was even able to make their beverages in the Coca-Cola manufacturing plants. So, while there was no more Russia-made Coke or Fanta, Dobry was a perfect substitute. If someone wanted a real Coke, and not Dobry, they could still get that too. There was still a reserve of Coke that lasted for several months. Once it ran out, Coke (and Dr. Pepper), imported from Poland by a company in Novosibirsk, began to appear on the shelves in many grocery stores. The company refused to comment whenever journalists asked how they were getting it.

In Moscow, there was never a shortage in grocery stores. Most items became more expensive, but fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, and anything else was still in abundance throughout the capital city. Most of the countries Russia imported produce from aren’t among those who have levied sanctions against Russia.

With clothing brands, it is a similar story. Some brands like Adidas and Reebok closed their stores for good and did not reopen (at least while I was there). Others reopened a few weeks after they closed, but under different names after their Russian assets were transferred to (mainly) Chinese companies. Cropp reopened as CR, Mohito was now simply M, and Reserved became RE, to name a few. Since most of the clothing was made in China anyways, the same clothing as before was still available, allowing people to continue shopping in their favourite stores.

While everyday life in the capital city was more or less the same, there were a few moments of panic among the populace. I lived on the bus route to Vnukovo airport, and regularly took the number 911 bus that terminates at the airport. The weeks after the war began, the 911 bus was completely packed almost every day with people going to the airport to leave Russia. This happened again in the weeks after the “partial” mobilization was announced on September 21.

Another air of panic was in March and April when several banks announced that they would begin charging 1% per month to accounts holding USD in amounts over $1000 in an apparent effort to get people to exchange USD into Rubles to try and artificially inflate the value of the ruble. This led to long line ups at ATMs with people withdrawing as much USD as they could. Later several of these banks went back on it completely or adjusted the amount to over $5000.

It’s hard to gauge the support Russian people have for the war. There is definitely a significant portion of the population who are 100% on board with Putin’s war. Plenty of them have placed white Zs on their vehicles or bought clothing with pro-war symbols. Others support the end goal, but not the means of getting there. Many of those who are against the war have either left or are scared to speak up in the face of 15 years in prison.

Living in Russia after the brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is not all that different to what it was like before. One thing to keep in mind is that sanctions are not meant to work overnight. They are a slow burn taking months, if not years, for the effects to be felt. For now, things may be normal, but in time Russia could find itself stuck without parts to fix planes, trains, and cars; they have already had to reduce the number of inter-city high-speed train daily departures. More countries should begin sanctioning Russia, including those that still export food products, leaving Russia scrambling to find new sources.