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Muscovites Complain Businesses Raising Prices On Key Goods, Services

A man wears a protective mask in Moscow, shrouded in smoke from nearby wildfires.

A man wears a protective mask in Moscow, shrouded in smoke from nearby wildfires.

MOSCOW -- Muscovites and Russian consumer advocates are complaining that stores have raised the prices on key products such as air conditioners, ventilators, and even cold drinks amid the intense heat and smog that is plaguing Moscow, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

While people are upset at the inflated prices, Aleksei Koryagin, a representative of Russia's Consumers Association, told RFE/RL that there is little consumers can do legally.

"Consumers are basically defenseless," he said. "The local government has taken away all methods of regulation and [options for] consumers' defense."

For example, air conditioners that cost 15,000 rubles ($500) two weeks ago in Moscow are currently being sold for 60,000 rubles ($2,000).

Koryagin told RFE/RL that the rise in prices for items like air conditioners is "a tragedy."

"The markets are reflecting the full sickness of [Russian] society," he said. "Our businesses are not able to make money in a civilized way in this situation."

The price of coffins has also risen, as well as the cost of holding funerals, as the city's morgues are full.

Moscow's chief health official, Andrei Seltsovky, said on August 9 that the number of fatalities in the city each day has reached up to 700 people -- about twice the normal rate -- because of intense temperatures and smoke from rampant wildfires in the Moscow region.

Even people trying to escape Moscow have run up against financial obstacles. According to some reports, prices for package tours to resorts have also gone up.

But Irina Turina, a spokeswoman for the Union of Russian Tour Operators, said the prices are always high in August. She told RFE/RL that tour prices are not going up "six to seven times" like the price of air conditioners.

"I have heard that several tour companies have raised the price of plane tickets -- two days ago they cost 200 euros ($262) and now they are 450 euros ($590)," Turina said. "But the thing is, tourism is also a business, and when there is a rush on a product the price goes up."

Political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky says that businesses are openly raising the prices because the business sector doesn't sympathize with society.

"Businesses don't consider themselves as part of 'society.' They don't believe in the prospects of this country, in this society, which until recently seemed healthy," he said.

Belkovsky says that while Russians have attacked the government for the way they have handled the fires, many are not acting responsibly themselves.