Rising Prices in Wartime Russia: Impact on Voters as Election Approaches

SREDNEURALSK, Russia, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Dealing with increased expenses for baby necessities like food and diapers has meant that Darya Stepanova and her family had to cut back on their spending of daily treats and dining out. The Russian economy continues to feel the repercussions of the war in Ukraine and the ripple effects of Western sanctions, with numerous families feeling the financial strain.

Living off a monthly income of 50,000 roubles ($550) earned by her husband Sergei, Stepanova, along with her newborn son and five-year-old son, carefully searches for bargains whenever she visits the shops in Sredneuralsk, just north of the Ural city of Yekaterinburg and 1400 km (870 miles) east of Moscow.

“The cost of basic necessities has significantly increased over the years,” she told Reuters. “The value of a thousand roubles doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. Before, it could purchase enough food for several days, but now it only covers daily essentials like milk, yogurt, and bread.”

Stepanova expressed that baby milk prices have quadrupled over the past five years and the prices of prams have tripled to 60,000 roubles. Similarly, the prices for disposable nappies and baby food have at least doubled. She continued by sharing that their family income has not increased proportionally to the rising costs, exacerbated by a depreciating rouble against the U.S. dollar.

She also mentioned that, “There is no money left for treats. Of course you can live without them but life is less fun.”

The Russian economy has faced high inflation, with the fallout from the war and sanctions creating uncertainty for millions of Russian voters ahead of the 2024 election. But the family did not wish to discuss the politics or the reasons behind the price hikes.

The situation has led many Russians to seek discounts while the West imposed tough sanctions on the country with the intent of stoking an economic crisis, which has not happened. Russia’s economy, heavily reliant on natural resources, has managed to keep growing, but some data on poverty levels are lacking. Official statistics show that at least 15.7 million people live below the poverty line of 14,375 roubles ($157) per month.

Russian economist Igor Lipits expressed doubts about the official data, saying that a significant portion of the Russian population is struggling on low wages.

At a food market in St. Petersburg, Lyudmila and her friends are also seeking ways to cut back and find discounts. “What option do we have? Of course we won’t die and we won’t cry – we will try to survive somehow.”

($1 = 91.4000 roubles) (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)


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