MOSCOW: “Everything has collapsed”: for certain Russian companies, the mobilization ordered by Vladimir Putin entails its share of disorganization, uncertainties and forced adaptation. One more challenge after the Covid and international sanctions.
In the brand new coworking space he owns in Chelyabinsk, in the Urals, Maxime Novikov counts the empty seats usually occupied by independent designers and computer scientists or those launching their start-ups.
Since the announcement on September 21 of the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of civilian reservists to go and fight in Ukraine, “many customers have stopped coming”, laments this 33-year-old self-employed entrepreneur to AFP. Some left to fill the ranks of the Russian army, while others, he says, chose exile in neighboring Kazakhstan, 140 kilometers to the south.
“I don’t know at all if they will continue to pay their subscription,” he worries. “It could be a big shortfall, when I have to repay a loan!”
Of the 77 places available in this space, barely 45 have been occupied for three weeks.
“My turnover has already dropped this year for this space, by more than 40%”, account this architect by training. “I wanted to buy a third space but for the moment it is not possible to take the risk”.
“A month or two of reserves”
Maxim Novikov is not alone. Many companies are worried about the consequences of the mobilization on their production and their workforce, particularly in the high-tech sector which has already seen tens of thousands of specialists flee since February scalded by the conflict and repression in Russia. .
“It puts projects on hold and private companies will be afraid to invest,” analyzes Natalia Zubarevich, economist at Moscow State University.
According to her, “the economic situation had already deteriorated since the beginning of the year in view of the events. The mobilization will be an additional aggravating factor”.
In Moscow, Elena Irissova, 45, is sorry, for her part, to see “her production stopped”.
Director of a small luxury leather bag company, she employs around ten people. At the end of September, two of its craftsmen quit their jobs: one fled the mobilization, the other left to help his daughter whose husband was sent to the front. Also, the controls are sealed.
“After September 21, everything collapsed. Our sales were divided by three, from ten to three orders per day,” she laments. “I can last a month or two with my personal reserves, but no more,” she says.
The Moscow pastry shop run by Katerina Iberika, 39, who notably sells cakes for birthday receptions, is also encountering difficulties. Its five employees, women exempt from mobilization, are there, on the other hand the mood is not festive in the Russian capital, and suddenly the turnover plunges.
“The cancellations of reservations for major events began two days before the start of the mobilization” when the rumors about her began, she told AFP.
“Today we have zero orders or they are very small,” laments Katerina Iberika, who is considering leaving Russia.
“People are looking to put their money aside,” observes Sofya Donets, chief economist for Russia at Renaissance Capital. “They’re not going to overspend.”
Finally, staff shortages are reported in construction, transport and the agricultural sector, “areas strongly affected” according to Natalia Zoubarevich, because “the vast majority of workers” are “young men, poorly educated, who are mobilized”.
Russian employers have sounded the alarm, asking the government for an exemption from mobilization, in particular for founders and owners of SMEs, as well as self-entrepreneurs.
Faced with these “problems”, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development told AFP “to have defined a list of priority measures”.
A decision was therefore taken to facilitate grants and microcredits. In addition “a mobilized entrepreneur will now be able to suspend his obligations” of reimbursement, highlights the ministry.
And Sofya Donets always expects “more intervention and state aid” to offset the effects of the mobilization. Especially since the Russian coffers are always filling up thanks to its energy windfall.