Speed Reads

Rally round the Plague

Russia's economy is predicted to shrink 10 percent this year, but Putin's popularity is soaring

Russia's economy will contract by 10 percent this year due to Ukraine invasion and resulting sanctions, sinking the country into its worse recession since the early 1990s, the Financial Times reports, citing new estimates from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). 

"Russia will take a hit and living standards will take a hit," said ERBD chief economist Beata Javorcik. "But they will be able to weather this shock in terms of macroeconomic stability. What is going to impact Russia more is growth," or more specifically "zero growth next year and very low growth longer-term," as foreign buyers wean themselves of Russian oil and gas and young Russians emigrate for better opportunities.
And Russians are "fleeing their country in record numbers" since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, The Washington Post reports. "Some fear arrest and imprisonment for participating in antiwar protests," while others "worry about being forced into military service," but the "Russians who are departing appear to be disproportionately young, urban and well-educated," the Post says. "Many of them work in the tech sector or other white-collar professions, prompting economists and policy analysts to warn that Putin's Russia may also face an unexpected 'brain drain.'"

Russian papers are full of news on the economic effects of sanctions, BBC News Russia editor Steve Rosenberg reports, including incentives to prevent a "brain drain."

CNN reports on panic-buying of sugar and other commodities and says inflation in Russia may hit 50 percent by the end of the year.

Nonetheless, "Putin's popularity is soaring in Russia following his invasion of Ukraine," approval of his actions rising from 69 percent in January to 71 percent in February and 83 percent in March, the Post reports, citing data from Levada, an independent Russian polling agency. "The approval ratings of the Russian government and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin also grew domestically," and there is increased "negative sentiment across Russia toward the European Union and the United States." A 69 percent majority of respondents said Russia is "moving in the right direction" versus saying Russia's current course "is a dead end."