Ukraine-Russia conflict: Life has started in Russia three months after the Ukraine war

When Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine, the war seemed to be far from Russian territory. Yet within a few days the conflict came home – not with cruise missiles and mortars, but in the form of unprecedented and unexpectedly massive sanctions by Western governments and economic penalties for corporations.

Three months after the February 24 attack, many ordinary Russians are recovering from that trauma for their livelihood and passion. Moscow’s sprawling shopping malls have become a surprising expanse of closed storefronts once occupied by Western retailers.

The McDonald’s – a cultural event that opened in Russia in 1990, a shiny modern facility that landed on a terrifying country due to limited choice – came out of Russia entirely in response to the Ukrainian invasion. IKEA, a symbol of affordable modern comfort, suspended operations. Thousands of once secure jobs are now suddenly questioned in a very short time.

Major industrial players, including oil giant BP and Shell and automaker Renault, have left despite their huge investments in Russia. Shell estimates it will lose about 5 5 billion trying to unload its Russian assets.

As the multinationals were leaving, thousands of Russians who had the economic means to do so were fleeing, frightened by the harsh new government’s move associated with the war, which they saw as immersed in totalitarianism. Some young people may flee for fear that the Kremlin will impose a mandatory draft to feed its war machine.

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But escapes have become much more difficult than before – 27 EU countries, including the United States and Canada, have banned flights to and from Russia. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, once a simple 90-minute long-distance destination by air from Moscow, suddenly took at least 12 hours to reach a route via Istanbul.

Even naughty travel through the internet and social media has shrunk for Russians. Russia banned Facebook and Instagram in March – although this could be blocked using VPNs – and cut off access to foreign media websites, including the BBC, US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. .

After Russian authorities passed a law calling for up to 15 years in prison for stories that include “fake news” about the war, many notable independent news outlets have shut down or suspended operations. These include the Ekho Moskvy radio station and the Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper whose editor, Dmitry Muratov, recently shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

The psychological value of oppression, restrictions and shrinking opportunities may be higher on ordinary Russians, although difficult to measure. Although some Russian opinion polls suggest strong support for the Ukraine war, the results are likely to be skewed by respondents who remain silent, cautious about expressing their real views.

Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center wrote in a commentary that Russian society is now gripped by an “aggressive deposit” and that the erosion of social bonds could be accelerated.

“The discussion is getting wider and wider. You can call your patriots – a fellow citizen, but a dissenter – a “traitor” and consider them an inferior type of person. You, like most senior state officials, can freely and quite calmly speculate about the possibility of nuclear war. (It is) something that, of course, was never sanctioned during the Pax Atomic period in Soviet times, when both sides realized that subsequent damage was completely unimaginable, “he wrote.

“Now that understanding is declining, and this is another sign that Russia is facing an ethnic catastrophe,” he said.

Economic consequences are still completely out of the game. Early in the war, the Russian ruble lost half its value. But the government’s efforts to shore it up have actually raised its standard beyond its level before the attack.

But in terms of economic activity, “this is a completely different story,” said Chris Wafer, an experienced Russian economic analyst at Macro-Advisory.

“We are now witnessing a decline in the economy in various sectors. Companies are warning that their list of spare parts is running out. Many companies hire their employees on a part-time basis and others warn them to shut down completely. So unemployment will rise in the summer months, which will be a big drop in costs and retail sales and investment, “he told The Associated Press.

Wafer said the relatively strong ruble, although it may seem pleasant, also creates problems for the national budget.

“They effectively receive their revenue from exporters in its foreign currency and their payment is in rubles. So the stronger the ruble, the more money they actually have to spend, ”he said.

If the war continues, more companies may leave Russia. Wafer suggested that organizations that had just suspended operations could resume them once a ceasefire and peace agreement were reached for Ukraine, but he said the window could be closed for that.

“If you walk around the shopping malls in Moscow, you will see that many fashion stores, Western business groups have just pulled down the shutters. Their shelves are still full, the light is still on. They just aren’t open. So they haven’t come out yet. They are waiting to see what happens next, “he explained.

Wafer said these companies would soon be pressured to resolve the instability in their Russian business.

“We’re at a stage where companies are starting to run out of time, or maybe they’re running out of patience,” he said.

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