War and peace: how Abkhazia adapts to international sanctions against Russia
Impact of anti-Russian sanctions on Abkhazia
Sanctions against Russia, imposed because of the hostilities in Ukraine, have a significant impact on Abkhazia since Russia is the main economic partner of the republic. JAMnews correspondent Marianna Kotova talks about how the war and economic sanctions affected the lives of people of Abkhazia.
Clothing market Sukhumpribor in the capital of Abkhazia, 11 am – it’s time to trade. Saleswomen discuss the latest news over a cup of coffee, some even try to do a little coffee reading.
“Reading fortune on coffee grounds today is even more reliable than reading news. Everyone sees what they want to see – whether in a coffee cup or on the Internet”, says one of the traders.
One can easily drink another cup, there are no customers in sight. But, as entrepreneurs say, the demand for clothes and shoes has not fallen. Quite the contrary – people began to buy more fancy dresses and suits.
“Weddings and funerals will not be canceled by illness or war”, the woman says. “And they love to dress with us, they will save on food, but they will take new shoes for the new season, albeit on credit”.
The goods are purchased, as before. Some order from an online catalog, then the goods come from Turkey by ship, others go to Pyatigorsk for Chinese goods. But most order remotely and pay via bank. Business quickly finds solutions even in conditions of total restrictions.
“We adapted even during the pandemic, before we would travel to Turkey ourselves. Now, I only go there on vacation”, says one of the entrepreneurs.
They pay for goods in dollars. But exchange offices, as in Russia, work only to buy foreign currency and do not sell it to the public. But that’s not a problem either. The black market for currency has always existed. Not a single merchant changed dollars in banks. This was unprofitable even before the introduction of restrictions.
“It has always been profitable to deal with foreign exchange, but especially now. Now even those who were afraid and made all transactions through the bank come to us. And why be afraid of us, we turned out to be more reliable partners. Only now we ourselves are worried about fakes. We need to purchase a device for verification, otherwise we may find ourselves in a very unpleasant situation”, says Angela (name changed).
Prices and deficit
In Abkhazia, sanctions and a possible shortage of goods are not causing a lot of worry. There is no rush demand for food products and hygiene items. The shelves are full, but prices have gone up by 15-40% percent in a month. Most of all, this worries pensioners.
“Butter became more expensive immediately by 100 rubles [about $1.2], buckwheat also went up in price by a hundred rubles, it seems, the whole borscht set too. But the prices increased a lot in the summer. Beets and carrots now cost more than 100 rubles like imported fruits. And the meat became 200 rubles more expensive. If the pension is not increased, then the belt will have to be tightened”, says pensioner Lyuba Vartagava.
The shortage is observed only in the pharmacy and only for one drug necessary for people with thyroid problems – thyroxine. According to endocrinologists, this deficit was created artificially.
Patients in need of lifelong therapy began to buy all available boxes. The pharmacist of one of the pharmacies says that, knowing about such a hunt for medicine, she herself decided to sell only one package of thyroxin per person, saying that it was the last one.
“My heart told me to do so. Because if I give everything to one person, several others will suffer”, says the pharmacist.
Motorists are concerned. They are already looking for ways to arrange the supply of spare parts. One of the workshop workers is sure that prices will rise, but there will not be a total shortage.
“Earlier, traders used to bring spare parts from Georgia. If they could not find it in Rostov or Krasnodar, then they ordered from Vladivostok, and at worst from Georgia. I think there will also be smuggling from China in Vladivostok, but it will be cheaper to buy from Georgia anyway. We will find something, the only question is the price”, says the auto mechanic.
Waiting for the tourist season
Entrepreneurs from the tourism sector are much more positively disposed. According to the forecasts of hoteliers and travel agents, a good tourist season is expected.
“It is no longer possible to book a room in the best hotels in Abkhazia, for example, Boxwood Grove, Amre or Abaat. Everything is fully booked”, says tour agent Veronika. The prices are quite high. A 10-day vacation for a family of three costs an average of 250,000 rubles [about $3,000].
Smaller hotels have not seen much change in demand, but they say it is too early to draw conclusions.
“We usually get an understanding of what the season will be like in mid-May”, says Kama, co-owner of the mini-hotel, “but I can already say that there will be a lot of people”.
Candidate for deputies of the People’s Assembly of Abkhazia Akhra Smyr during the election campaign on one of the live broadcasts on television said the following:
“Today Russia found itself in the same position that Abkhazia has been in for 30 years – under sanctions and in isolation. But there is always a way out, and there are always partners who are ready to help, trade and create friendships with”.
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