Have the West's economic sanctions hurt Russians?

In Moscow, everyday Russians discuss how economic sanctions are affecting their lives— and Moscow Professor Georgy Ostapkovich explains what the goal of these policies might have been and if they’re working.

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Earlier this week I went shopping in Moscow and found that despite The New York Times and The Washington Post telling their American readers that the Western economic sanctions against Russia are causing “Soviet-style shortages” and essential goods “scarcity”, essentials like food and gasoline were plentiful and cheap in Russia. But how about the other mainstream media narratives? Headlines consistently portray the Russian economy in shambles due to the sanctions. How do these stories hold up against life on the ground? How are the Russian people dealing with this economic war?

I sat down with Dr. Georgy Ostapkovich, the director of The Center for Market Research at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, one of the top universities in Russia. “In March, when the military operation began, Western economists and even Russian regulators estimated that the economy would lose 10 to 15 percent of its growth… but according to the latest data we’ve only lost maximum 3 percent,” he told me.

Experts aside, I also spoke to regular people in Moscow. “I have not been affected by the sanctions… I’m living my life just the same as before,” one woman told me. Ostapkovich explained that he believed a goal of the sanctions was to make the Russian people unhappy with their government and hopefully cause social unrest, or in other words, regime change. “That was definitely one of the aims of the United States,” he said.

Ostapkovich also explained to me that Russia is not entirely out of the woods yet. “Sanctions are not like a shelling or a rocket… they take time… and there could possibly be more sanction packages aimed at Russia this upcoming year including a total embargo on imports and exports which would really hurt the economy,” he said.

To keep up to date with all of my reports from Russia, go to RussianReports.com. Please donate whatever you can to our crowdfunded journey here, to help me do this critical reporting that the mainstream media are just not doing. Between my economy-class airfare and accommodations, an interpreter, a fixer, and a Moscow lawyer (just in case), we expect the total cost of this trip to be $11,000. Please chip in if you can!

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