Russia works to avoid a return to Soviet-era scarcity
Gripped by heavy economic sanctions and increasingly isolated from Western suppliers, Russia is working to keep its factories and businesses running and to stave off a return to Soviet-era scarcity. The economic toll, though difficult to quantify, has been felt widely, from its largest companies to its small shops and workers.
As the central bank slashed interest rates, its chairwoman, Elvira Nabiullina, warned that the coming months would be “difficult for both companies and citizens” as the fallout deepened for the Russian economy more than three months into the invasion of Ukraine. Shortages will most likely worsen as sanctions further turn Russia into an economic pariah.
Basic items, including paper and buttons, are in short supply. Prices of consumer goods have been soaring, with the inflation rate rising to 17.8 percent last month before dipping slightly. Sales in the energy sector are projected to fall as European customers begin to pivot away from Russian oil. And airlines, cut off from Western manufacturers, are searching for spare parts.
Quotable: “I call what is happening now a horrible experiment,” said Ivan Fedyakov, who runs Infoline, a market research firm in Russia. “It has never happened in modern history when such a big and deeply integrated country would be so quickly and abruptly fenced off from the global economy.”
Back to basics: The Russian automaker Avtotor announced a lottery for free 10-acre plots — and the chance to buy seed potatoes — so that its employees could grow their own food amid “the difficult economic situation.” The company announced the giveaway after Western sanctions hobbled production at its assembly plant in Kaliningrad.
In other news from the war:
Calls for police accountability in Uvalde school shooting
Parents and witnesses to the massacre at Robb Elementary School in southwestern Texas this week are asking why armed personnel didn’t stop the gunman, who walked into the school unobstructed and remained inside for more than an hour before officers killed him.
Police accounts have changed, but today, officials said that officers had responded “within minutes” and that two police officers were shot when they tried to enter a classroom where the gunman was already firing. Officials said they believed that most, if not all, the 21 victims had been shot within the first few minutes of the gunman’s entering the school.
But some witnesses said they had urged the police to storm the school sooner. Others saw officers handcuff a parent who was trying to get inside. Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter was killed, was outside during the attack. “They said they rushed in and all that,” he said, speaking of law enforcement. “We didn’t see that.”
Victims: Jackie Cazares and Annabelle Rodriguez were cousins in the same classroom. Eva Mireles, one of the teachers killed, “brought the neighborhood together.” And Joe Garcia, the husband of Irma Garcia, the other teacher killed, died yesterday of a heart attack. The couple were married for 24 years and had four children.
Politics: The Times asked all 50 Republican senators where they stood on gun legislation.
The Tories take aim at climbing prices
Under pressure over a scathing report on lockdown parties in Downing Street, and with his party trailing in opinion polls, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, unveiled an aid package worth billions of pounds and aimed at confronting the worst squeeze on British incomes in a generation.
Inflation in Britain is surging toward double figures, and the economy is teetering on the brink of a recession. The package would help all British households, but especially those struggling the most to pay spiking bills for gas and electricity.
Critics accused Johnson of rushing out the announcement to distract attention from the “Partygate” scandal that has threatened to end his career. Yesterday, Downing Street apologized for misleading journalists by denying that parties had taken place, and three more Conservative lawmakers called on Johnson to quit.
Succession: There is no obvious successor to Johnson, particularly given that the popularity of one leading contender, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the Exchequer, has slipped in recent months following a furor over his wife’s tax arrangements.
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One cone to rule them all
As the realm of ice cream has expanded — more flavors, more toppings — the cone world has grown only smaller. Joy Baking Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of ice cream cones, has cornered the market by betting on a basic premise: When it comes to the cone, people don’t want creativity; they want familiarity.
Joy makes 41.3 percent of the cones sold in American stores; it’s most likely more, since it also manufactures private-label cones. Some 60 percent to 70 percent of the cones sold in food service are Joy’s, according to one consultant for ice cream shops. Its closest competitor, Keebler, controls 14.5 percent of store sales.
At Joy’s 530,000-square-foot flagship factory in western Pennsylvania, jumbo spinning ovens that look like a joint partnership between NASA and Dr. Seuss operate around the clock. Huge, keg-like vats hold the pale batter for the cones — mainly flour, water and sugar, along with tapioca flour for the cake cones.
“The thing about ice cream is that for virtually everyone, it is so tied to nostalgia,” said Susan Soorenko, the owner of Moorenko’s, an ice cream shop in the Washington area. For many Americans, those moments are linked to Joy cones. And even if another worthy competitor arises, “it doesn’t matter,” she said. “Because it is competing with a memory.”