My wife, Marina, has returned from a two and a half week to Moscow to visit her 93 year old mother. She almost got bumped from her Turkish Airlines flight out of Moscow through Istanbul, but her travel agent managed to get her back on. Very glad she is back. Anyway, a few first hand current reports.
Yes, in terms of living standards, in Moscow most things are operating and there are plenty of goods in the stores, although prices are high. There is a major effort to have things seem "normal," lots of cooking shows on TV. It is true that a lot of foreign goods are not available, although there are odd exceptions. Thus apparently French and Italian wines are available. Also, KFC is all over the place, although this would appear to be a franchise. Apparently Marriott hotels have been bought "for a dime" by the Saudis, who are now badly mismanaging them.
Many things are either not reported or reported very differently than over here. So supposedly the referenda on annexation were "transparent." People lined up to vote were shown on TV and there were some international observers testifying to this "transparency," from Syria, South Africa, and Brazil. No guns being pointed at anybody supposedly.
Yes, it was a big freakout when the partial mobilization was announced. One of her best friends had her son conscripted. Apparently there is a known going price to get out of being conscripted: 5000 euros, yes, euros, not rmb/yuan or USD, and definitely not rubles, with the ruble/euro rate much worse in practice than the official rate.
My wife reminds me that there are still many "good and wise people" there, but unfortunately they are not in charge or having much say with those who are.
Oh, and a festschrift is being organized by the Russian Economic Federation for our old friend Victor Polterovich, now 85 years old and probably the most eminent economist in Russia at this time.