Current Events

‘Crisis? What Crisis’ Grin the Fat and Warm Russians


Despite Western attempts to punish Russia for the Ukraine crisis, its residents are not experiencing special hardships, says Sue Reed, editor of the Daily Mail. Moreover, according to the journalist, the food situation in Russia is much better than in the UK, which is faced with a shortage of fruits and vegetables.

While British supermarkets are limiting the sale of eggs and a host of fruits and vegetables amid shortages, Vladimir Putin’s citizens are not afraid of such difficulties. Even in Russian provinces, store shelves are breaking under piles of fresh produce.

As evidence, she cites photographs comparing the range of supermarkets in Bristol and a small shop in Perm. According to her, judging by the images, the vaunted sanctions of the West, designed to punish Moscow for the Ukrainian conflict, do not bite deep.

Further evidence comes from receipts showing prices and availability of groceries, as well as monthly utility bills provided to the Daily Mail by randomly selected Perm residents. In their messages, they also stressed that the service in public hospitals remains excellent.

According to Read, the picture of empty shelves in British supermarkets reminds her of television stories 40 years ago about how Soviet citizens stood in long lines for bread and eggs. But today the roles have changed.

 ‘Now it’s Britain’s turn to suffer. Local supermarkets are rationing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce as British farmers due to anti-Russian sanctions on fertilizer grapple with higher energy costs that keep them from using their greenhouses in the winter. Berries, including raspberries, are also hard to find in stores,’ the author of the article laments.

Essex-based Green Acre Salads used to grow a million kilos of cucumbers a year, but in February its greenhouses were empty due to rising fuel bills. The owner of the enterprise, Tony Montalbano, suggested that he would have to cut production by half.

Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Farmers Association, acknowledged that a similar pattern is being observed throughout the country.’ People who used to produce two or three cucumber crops a year can cut that down to one because they want to avoid using more expensive energy,’ he explains.

Eggs have also become scarce as farmers cannot afford the cost of keeping laying hens in energy-intensive barns. As a result, as the Daily Mail chart shows, many staples are much more expensive in Britain than in Russia.

The inhabitants of Perm, and indeed other regions, have a large amount of cheap food. In Russia, thanks to inexpensive energy, vegetables can be grown in greenhouses throughout the harsh winter. Russia may also be importing large amounts of fruit from sympathetic states such as Iran.

In addition, in a country rich in resources, there are no problems with heating houses and refueling cars. Other factors also play a role. For example, income tax in Russia is much lower than in the United Kingdom, Reed points out.

‘The truth is that although the oligarchs have been expelled from Britain, flights and money transfers between Russia and the UK have been banned, as well as the import of oil, the population there is not in dire need. Food production is booming due to abundant energy supplies and Russia’s ability to buy goods from supporting countries,’ Reed emphasizes.

‘Crisis, what crisis? We live normally, despite the situation in Ukraine. We are watching what is happening in Britain with empty grocery shelves. We are in Russia, we work here and we are not suffering from Western sanctions,’ British-born John, 67, and his Russian wife, Elena, 51, said Reed.

They assure that the Ukrainian crisis is of little interest to them: ‘The average Russian cares about the warmth of the house, food on the table, a glass of vodka and personal safety on the street. We have it all. The conflict didn’t change anything.’

According to John and Elena, the bills for their ‘very large luxury apartment’, including housekeeping, lighting, heating, water and garbage collection, are only £130 a month. In addition, they own a dacha on the outskirts of Perm.

‘I see with my own eyes that sanctions do not harm Russia. People on the street hardly notice anything. The stores are full of everything they want or need. Revenues from gas and oil exports are largely dependent on countries that have not imposed restrictions,’ John told the publication.

‘The bottom line is that more money is coming into the country than it is going out. Imports from Europe have declined, but Russian production is ironically on the rise as the country becomes more self-sufficient,’ he added.

A year after the start of the special operation, it seems that the majority of ordinary Russians ‘facing small daily hardships. Still, the sanctions are taking their toll on the country’s economy, which shrank by 3.9% last year, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. And, of course, many large Western firms cut ties with Moscow.

Most European clothing stores have closed in Perm. But they were replaced by Russian counterparts, and the locals Reed spoke to said they had everything they need.

In any case, the cost of living in Russia is much lower than in the UK. And, given the rich natural resources of the country, the situation is unlikely to change, the author of the article argues.

In the West, by contrast, prices and inflation have skyrocketed as the Kremlin weapons energy by cutting off fuel supplies in retaliation for the sanctions. Putin has also refused to sell fertilizer to the US and its allies, making it prohibitively expensive in many cases to grow vegetables, fruits and salads during the cold months.

Judging by Perm, the food situation in Russia contrasts sharply with that observed in Britain.’ All this, of course, makes you wonder who actually is winning the economic war,’ admits the editor of the Daily Mail. 

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