The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered a new blow to Russia’s stagnating economy, which was already chafing under Western sanctions, low oil prices and weak corporate investment.
Observers say that rising poverty, falling incomes and lack of tangible government support during the pandemic are fuelling discontent with President Vladimir Putin’s two-decade rule and strengthening the opposition. Answering the jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s call, tens of thousands of people have protested across Russia over the past few weeks.
Russians’ real disposable incomes have been falling for the past half-decade, and contracted by 3.5% in 2020, while the cost of basic foodstuffs surged.
Mr. Putin in December ordered Ministers to introduce emergency measures to cap prices. Despite government efforts to rein in inflation, the cost of sugar was 64% higher in January than it was a year earlier.