Mariupol: Life Is Going Better, But Prices Bite Hard

NEW – September 1, 2022

There is no doubt that life in Mariupol is getting better every day: in the houses damaged during the hostilities, restoration work is in full swing, which should be completed by the beginning of the heating season. Mariupol residents are returning home. And every day more and more new small shops and just retail outlets are opening in the middle of the street, but there is only one problem in all retail outlets – prices are going through the roof.

In March, Mariupol residents lived practically without money – they were not needed in the basements. By mid-April, when it became relatively safe in many areas of the city and it was possible to leave the basements, the main currency was not hryvnia or rubles, but a pack of cigarettes. Cigarettes were sold by young (and not so young) people who travel around the city on bicycles, it was considered a great success to buy a pack of cigarettes from them for 100 hryvnias (there were no rubles in Mariupol then), which at that time was equal to 200 rubles. Another currency was a can of stew, for which it was quite possible to exchange a piece of film to close a window left without glass. Surprisingly, alcohol at that time as a currency was completely unpopular.

In the second half of April, the surviving markets began to operate, the first was the “Kosmos” market in the 23rd microdistrict, then the “Edelweiss” market in the Oktyabrsky district. The central market does not work to this day – there is too much destruction on its territory.

At first, there were no more than a dozen sellers in the markets, and twenty times more buyers. By Easter, eggs began to be brought from the surrounding villages – a dozen cost 100 hryvnias (200 rubles), huge queues lined up for them for several hours. But time passed, markets grew every day, and prices fell. In May, two near-supermarkets of the MTM-Market trading network opened in the building of former ATB stores, and then small retail outlets began to appear almost every week. Now in Mariupol you can even buy ice cream and cold beer, which a month ago seemed like something from the realm of fantasy. One bad thing is the price…

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At first, Mariupol residents were sure that such high prices were set throughout the republic and in Russia, and they would have to live with it somehow. But after the regular bus service to Taganrog and Rostov was established, it became clear that everything was wrong with prices in Mariupol.

For example, a roll of toilet paper costs from 40 to 50 rubles, while in Taganrog, surprised residents of Mariupol bought it for only 7 rubles, which was a real shock for them. As for other products and essentials, Mariupol prices are much higher. And this despite the fact that in August the prices decreased slightly compared to May. For example, a piece of toilet soap costs from 80 rubles and more, deodorant – about 200 rubles, a pack of buckwheat (800 g) – 140 rubles, boiled sausage – from 400 rubles per kg, a pack of butter (200 g) – from 180- 200 rubles and more, a can of condensed milk – from 120 rubles, a can of sprat – 90. A five-litre container of drinking water costs more than 100 rubles, and two litres of such water costs from 60 to 70 rubles.

Bread was cheaper in May: then a loaf or loaf could be bought for 20 rubles on the market, today bread is not often sold on the market, but in the store the same loaf costs from 40 rubles and more, there is bread for 35 rubles, which is quickly taken apart, buns cost from 30 rubles.

Mariupol residents can basically afford frozen chicken legs (270 rubles per kilogram) and potatoes (30 rubles), while lard has now become a delicacy – from 400 to 500 rubles on the market.

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Sellers explain the high prices by the fact that they have to carry food from Donetsk under shelling. And in the Zaporozhye region, for example, in Melitopol, from where goods are also brought to Mariupol, wholesale prices, they say, today are higher than in the DPR.

And the city authorities explain the high prices by the lack of competition.

Back in the first days of June, the city administration promised to look into and solve this problem by taking the prices of socially important food products and essential goods under strict control.

“I am familiar with the problem of high prices and want to say that the city is working on a solution. After checking one of the supermarkets, they changed the price tags in the downward direction,” Evgeny Bodyagin, deputy head of the city administration, told reporters in June.

According to him, Republican retail chains will soon enter Mariupol, after which prices will definitely decrease. For now, it’s is necessary to wait and be patient…

Almost three months have passed since then. And only on August 27, on behalf of the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin, the Republican Pricing Headquarters was created. “Suddenly” it turned out that the problem of high prices exists not only in Mariupol, but also in other cities of the republic.

“Held the first meeting of the headquarters, at which the composition and main tasks to be solved in the first approximation was determined. Market analysis showed that in some outlets the prices for cabbage, onions, beets, apples, soap and a number of other goods are significantly overpriced. This is unacceptable, especially in such a difficult time for our Republic. The pricing headquarters will monitor prices weekly and promptly take measures to reduce them. I will personally supervise the implementation,” Vitaly Khotsenko, chairman of the government of the DPR, said on his Telegram channel.

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According to him, it is necessary that both entrepreneurs and manufacturers get involved in the work, only by joint efforts will it be possible to stabilize prices.

The first attempt was the opening last week of a Manna retail chain supermarket, where prices are 10-15% lower than in other Mariupol stores. But there is only one supermarket for the entire Mariupol, and with the existing transport problem, it is inaccessible to most Mariupol residents.

Another attempt by the city authorities to make food available to all Mariupol residents is weekly food fairs, where DPR companies can sell their products at a minimum trade margin. All manufacturers unanimously assure that the reason for the high prices in Mariupol is that the companies do not yet have their own outlets in the city, all products are currently sold by private entrepreneurs who set their own prices. So the problem is solved.

It remains only to wait until it is finally decided. After all, if it isn’t, more and more Mariupol residents will go to Taganrog for toilet paper, sausage and buns…

Anna Klimova

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