How Ordinary Russians Have Started Paying the Cost for Putin's Ukraine Invasion
Long ATM lines and being cut out off Apple Pay and Google Pay are some of the issues that Russians are coping with.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine entered its eighth day on Thursday, 3 March, as the city of Kheron fell to the Russian forces.
The economic consequences of war are starting to hit Russia hard. The rouble has hit its lowest level ever against the dollar.
Import prices have skyrocketed while sanctions on Russian banks have sparked chaos in the financial markets.
Whether in protest or in fear of losing money, the Russian market has seen an exodus of large and small companies in the past week.
These companies belong to all sectors – energy, entertainment, sports, oil and gas, automobiles, etc.
This article takes a look at how global companies boycotting Russia, along with other Western punitive policies like flight bans, are starting to deprive ordinary Russian people of the benefits that they were getting before the war.
Tech Companies' Actions Impact Daily Life
Apple has stopped selling its products after the invasion began, a move it made after imposing limitations for Apple Pay in Russia.
"We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence," the company's statement read.
Additionally, the sanctions against some Russian banks mean that they are cut off from Visa and Mastercard, and therefore from Apple Pay and Google Pay.
That means that many Russians cannot use their phone to pay for many of the essential services that they use.
A project manager in Moscow went through that experience.
"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 also couldn't pay in a shop today - for the same reason," Daria told the BBC.
Millions of Russians use Apple Pay and Google Pay all over the country.
Other tech companies have also taken action to show solidarity with Ukraine.
Dell Technologies has suspended sales of its laptops and other products in Russia.
"Our thoughts are with those families who have lost loved ones and all who are impacted. We have suspended product sales in Ukraine and Russia. We will continue to closely monitor the situation to determine our next steps," the company said in its statement.
Additionally, Google, along with Facebook and YouTube have announced that they would take measures to prevent Russian state media from earning money on its platforms.
Long ATM Lines and Fear of Cash Crunch
Ever since the "special military operation" in Donbas, long queues have been observed near ATMs all across Russia as people hurried to withdraw cash – both foreign currency as well as roubles.
The fear is that heavy sanctions on banks and financial institutions could lead to bank cards becoming defunct or a collapse in electronic banking, both leading to a situation where cash would be the only means of survival.
Limits on the amount of cash they can withdraw is also causing anxiety amongst the Russians.
Since the start of the invasion, dollars and euros have been running out at rapid speeds.
Very limited amount of foreign currencies has been available and indeed there is a an upper limit on how many roubles a person can withdraw.
One Russian man, who spoke to the BBC, said that he had just finished paying off his mortgage in Moscow, and spoke about the fear of withdrawing all his money in case of a cash emergency.
"When the operation in Donbas started I went to the ATM and withdrew the savings I had in Sberbank in dollars. Now I literally keep them under my pillow. The rest of my savings are still in the banks: half in dollars and the rest in roubles. If things get worse, I'll withdraw the lot. I am scared because I expect a wave of burglaries. But it is what it is."
The Tourist Problem
Due to the flight bans imposed by the United States (US) and many European countries, tens of thousands of Russian tourists who are abroad are in a limbo.
Russian tour operators say, according to NPR, that the number of tourists outside the country might even be over 1,50,000, and around 27,000 in areas directly affected by the flight restrictions.
One such example is Bulgaria.
"We have everything paid for – the flight, the stay, the insurance and transfer. And we cannot fly out, the sky is closed,” said Samokhina, as quoted by Euronews, who also said that she was very upset about the war in Ukraine.
"We would like them to make an exception (to the ban) for tourists. In the end ordinary people are not guilty of anything, they have simply come for a vacation," said Samokhina, an engineer who is supposed to be in Bulgaria for another 10 days, Euronews added.
Sports companies have started boycotting Russia as well.
Adidas has suspended its relationship with Russia, after it cut ties with the Russian Football Union (RFS).
A spokesperson for the company said that "Adidas is suspending its partnership with the Russian Football Federation (RFS) with immediate effect."
Then there's Nike. Russian people are no longer able to order Nike products online.
The company was halting online orders because it "could not guarantee delivery of goods to customers in Russia," an automated message read.
German sportswear company Puma has said that deliveries of its products to Russia have been stopped.
Its stores in the country, however, 100 of them, are open, Reuters reported.
Russian people have started to get estranged from the world of Hollywood.
Universal Pictures "has paused planned theatrical releases in Russia," according to what a spokesperson said to Deadline.
Sony has put the theatrical release of its upcoming films on hold.
"Given the ongoing military action in Ukraine and the resulting uncertainty and humanitarian crisis unfolding in that region, we will be pausing our planned theatrical releases in Russia," a spokesperson was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Paramount Pictures has stated that The Lost City and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 will not be released in Russia.
The Walt Disney Company has also decided to pause film releases in the country, including Turning Red.
A statement said that "given the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the tragic humanitarian crisis, we are pausing the release of theatrical films in Russia, including the upcoming Turning Red from Pixar."
The nature of war is such that its consequences reverberate through the years that follow it.
As Western sanctions isolate Vladimir Putin, his government and his country's institutions, the Russian people also get cut off from the rest of the world.
That reality may be the status quo for the whole decade – ordinary Russian people paying the price for the actions of their megalomaniac president.
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