There has been little attention to this in the western media, but the Russian ruble has suffered a major decline in the last few months. Earlier this year it was running around 25-30 to the US dollar. Now the official rate is at 40 and falling, with the rate at 50 to 1 at windows in Moscow. There is major capital and human flight going on that is attracting increasing comment in Russian sources.
Two pro-Putin economists have subtly noted problems. In English in Russia Behind the Headlines this past week, Alexander Shokhin, Director of the Union of Industrialists, has argued that the fall of the ruble will have some positive effects, particularly in the agro-industrial sector. However, he also warns that it will be damaging in the high technology sector, along with the sanctions, most notably in the nanotechnology sector, which was getting off the ground and has now come to a complete halt.
In Russian, and perhaps more importantly, Herman (German) Gref, Chairman and President of Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia and its main holdover from the Soviet era, still partly state-owned and the descendant of the old postal savings bank of the USSR, has just made a widely distributed speech in which he calls for buckling down in the face of the loss of luxury imports, but also warns that the opportunities for import substitution are greatly exaggerated and will take a long time to work in any case. He also notes the outflow of both skilled people and capital. Gref reports that the Russian central bank leaders are making desperate efforts to prop up the ruble.
It is unclear the extent to which Putin is following all of this or cares. To some extent he has used the cutoff of fancy food imports to stimulate nationalism by invoking the WW II model, which apparently many like. But it may also be that part of the reason the truce in eastern Ukraine is still more or less holding, despite an ongoing battle for control over the Donetsk airport (currently controlled by the Ukrainians), may be that he is in fact aware of the economic impacts on Russia and really does not want things to get worse.