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How Western Sanctions Changed Daily Life in Russia

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People in Russia visit a pharmacy. (Reuters file photo)

The West has imposed several sanctions on Russia for starting a war in Ukraine. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the move, describing his actions as a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. The West, however, calls this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.

Due to the crippling restrictions, financial sanctions have been imposed on Russia and international companies have suspended their operations there, impacting daily life.

The cost of living has increased, the risk of job loss is imminent and many financial institutions have been isolated.

Here is how daily life has changed in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine:

Prices for cooking oil, sugar and other commodities rise: Shortly after the sanctions were announced, consumer prices jumped 2.2% in Russia. The BBC has reported that stores in Moscow and other cities are restricting sales of drugs and some other items after complaints of hoarding.

The ruble has fallen since the start of the invasion almost three weeks ago. Jan, an EU resident, told the BBC that groceries he ordered for 5,500 rubles on February 20 now cost 8,000 rubles.

Russia will use the Chinese yuan from its foreign exchange reserves after Western sanctions blocked Moscow’s access to US dollars and euros in reserves, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Monday.

Sugar prices also increased by 20%.

Smartphones and laptops now cost more: With supply drying up due to restrictions, the cost of smartphones and TVs has risen by more than 10%, according to the BBC.

Other big brands like Nike, Apple and Ikea no longer sell their products in Russia.

Impact on the banking system: Russian financial institutions have been removed from the SWIFT international payment system, making transactions to and from Russia extremely difficult.

Apple, Google Pay, Mastercard, Visa and others have also limited their services in Russia.

Russians spend more on clothes and food: The state-run Promsvyazbank (PSB) said Russians rushed to buy electronics and pharmaceuticals and spent more on clothes and food in the first week of March, stockpiling goods as sanctions cut off trade.

An ordinary Russian spent 21% more in the first week of March than the February average, due to both inflation and a rush to stockpile, the state bank said PSB in a note after analyzing credit and debit card transactions.

Spending on electronic goods increased 40%, drugstore sales increased 22% and demand for clothing, footwear and supermarket spending increased 16%, PSB said.

Highest inflation since 1998: Annual consumer inflation reached 10.42% on March 4, according to the Ministry of Economy, against 9.05% on February 25.

Weekly inflation rose to 2.22% from 0.45% the previous week, its highest level since 1998.

Media repression: The few independent media that covered the war in Ukraine and criticized Russia were shut down by the government.

Earlier this month, a video surfaced on social media platforms showing the staff of an entire Russian TV channel resigning live.

Most Russians now receive information about the war in Ukraine through state media.