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Campaign against Foreign Traders will lead to Chaos in Grocery Trade

If the workers who now stand behind the counters of grocery shops and market stalls begin to disappear, the grocery trade is surely in for crisis. This was publicly acknowledged recently by the deputy director of the Russian Federal Immigration Services Vyacheslav Postavnin. At the very least prices on goods will increase sharply and it is also possible that fruit and other goods will become scarce as it is foreign traders who now deal with deliveries and sale. This new approach to foreign traders is to come into action from January 1st. From then on they will be forbidden to trade in medicines or alcohol. Owners of some of the markets are already hastening to get rid of foreign traders.

A silent panic has reigned in the markets of Moscow for some days now. This has been brought about by the statement given by Prime Minister Michael Fradkov at the end of the last week. Mr. Fradkov stated that from January foreign traders will no longer be allowed to sell alcohol or medicine and, as of April 1st, foreigners in general will be forbidden to trade.

Active measures relating to this so called clean up are already in motion. Yesterday morning at the metro Universitet market the stalls which had been previously managed by traders from southern Russia were closed. No representatives of the markets administration showed up. However a reporter from Novie Izvestia newspaper found four traders from the Caucasus in the directors office discussing whether to open their stalls. By evening they had decided to begin trading.

In Zelenograd all foreign traders without registration have already been expelled from the market. The manager of the market told reporters from Novie Izvestia that Checks began a month ago and now everyone here is working legally, including some of our traders who are from the Caucasus. One trader from Azerbaijan remarked I have been trading here for 12 years but I cant remember ever having experienced such pressure, I have all of my documents and so I havent been expelled, but soon this wont be any help.

Only 6 months ago in the Preobrazhenskiy market of Moscow most of the stalls were occupied by natives of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. A number of these foreign traders left following the anti Georgian campaign. Maria Skvortsova from Kolomna who works as a trader at Preobrazhenskiy recollects; All of the stalls were empty; there was nowhere to buy grapes. The immigrants who decided to remain must now face new persecution. A native of Abkhazia, Ruslan, wholeheartedly blames the government which is ready to dismiss millions of people. We are not criminals, we do not plunder, we do not kill, we work! he told Novie Izvestia What Muscovite would be ready to stand in the market all day long both in the freezing cold and in extreme heat? Who is prepared to live on such a small salary? We pay 600 rubles a day to rent a stall and this price will soon be raised so profits can only fall. No Russian would accept this". Meanwhile, a pensioner, Galina Stepanovna interceded on behalf of the trader W

e shall not expel you, we need you, and who else could I buy cheap fruit from?

For Nurik from Kazakhstan x hour will come in January. He works in a grocery shop in the capital where alcoholic drinks are sold. Nurik told the reporter The owner, a qualified lawyer, is now considering what to do; maybe I can work here as a stockroom worker but we still dont know if as a foreigner I will be allowed to deal with stock . Nurik has all of the correct documents to work in Russia, however without Russian citizenship he may no longer serve behind a counter. I have been here for four years, another year and I can apply for citizenship the shop assistant added with a glum smile.

Shoppers at the markets who were questioned did not display great concern for the destiny of the traders but rather for the price hikes on products which they see as inevitable.

Meanwhile in the northern regions people have already bid farewell to fruit. Evgenii Beljanchikov, a resident of Petrozavodsk stated Fruit is brought in to Karelia and sold to us by foreigners, if they are forbidden from trading we will no longer see watermelons or bananas and at New Years tangerines will only be available at astronomical prices.

A grocery market crisis is inevitable. This has been acknowledged by the deputy director of the Russian Federal Immigration Services Vyacheslav Postavnin, who declared on Friday; There are no hopes that bananas will grow in the north and there will of course be a transitional break period. However, it all depends on the efficiency of local leadership; if regional authorities can redistribute the grocery supply flow then people will not notice a crisis.

Another question has arisen: who will occupy the vacant places behind the counters? Shopping complexes are awash with announcements of sales vacancies. It is only pensioners who are actively applying for this work. In the words of former doctor turned potato seller, Tatiana Sergeeva, I receive a pension of only 1600 rubles and would gladly work on the market. But far from every middle businessman would be willing to trust his goods to a pensioner. Other Russians, city dwellers as well as those who only visit the city for work will demand far higher salaries from their employers than those which immigrant workers now receive.


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