Russians feeling pain of sanctions

“If I could leave Russia right now, I would. But I can’t quit my job,” says Andrey.

He can’t afford to get a mortgage in Moscow now since interest rates have been hiked.

Millions of Russians like him are starting to feel the effect of Western economic sanctions designed to punish the country for invading neighbouring Ukraine.

“I am planning to find new customers abroad as soon as possible and move out of Russia with the money I was saving for the first instalment,” says the 31-year-old industrial designer.

“I am scared here – people have been arrested for speaking against ‘the party line’. I feel ashamed and I didn’t even vote for those in power.”

The sanctions hitting Russia now are being described as economic war – they aim to isolate the country and create a deep recession there. Western leaders hope the unprecedented measures will bring about a change in thinking in the Kremlin.

Ordinary Russians face seeing their savings wiped out. Their lives are being disrupted.

The sanctions against some Russian banks include cutting them off from Visa and MasterCard, and consequently Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Daria, 35, a project manager in Moscow, said this meant he’d been unable to use the metro.

“I always pay with my phone but it simply didn’t work. There were some other people with the same problem. It turned out that the barriers are operated by VTB bank which is under sanctions and cannot accept Google Pay and Apple Pay.

“I had to buy a metro card instead,” he told the BBC. “I also couldn’t pay in a shop today – for the same reason.”

On Monday, Russia more than doubled its interest rate to 20 per cent in response to the sanctions after the rouble plunged to record new lows. The stock market remains closed amid fears of a massive share sell-off.

The Kremlin says it has enough resources to weather the sanctions, but this is debatable.

Over the weekend, the central bank appealed for calm amid fears of a run on the banks, which happens when too many people try to withdraw money. -BBC

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