Conflicts & War

Russians take refuge in festive shopping as Ukraine war rumbles on

Moscow, Dec 30 (EFE).- Russians have taken refuge in their Christmas shopping despite soaring prices and the flight of many Western brands amid president Vladimir Putin’s ongoing war in neighboring Ukraine.

“In recent days, the number of customers has grown a lot. They come for gifts for children,” Alexandr, a sales assistant at the Mir Kubikov toy store, Russia’s answer to Lego which withdrew its stores from the country in July, tells Efe.

Although the store stocks brands like MORK, Reobrix, LOZ and Sembo, most toys on sale are by Danish brand Lego and retail at stratospheric prices.

A model of the Eiffel Tower costs almost 100,000 rubles ($1,376), more than double what it would cost in other European countries.

“After Lego left Russia, we cannot officially use the brand, so now we are Mir Kubikov. The sale is not prohibited, but the network cannot use its brand,” adds Alexandr, who did not want to share his surname.


The Evropeysky shopping center, one of the many located in downtown Moscow, paints a similar picture.

Despite the extravagant Christmas decor and flashing lights, many international stores remain closed, such as Japanese clothes store UNIQLO or Sweden’s H&M, which have been replaced with homegrown brands.

Coffee lovers can enjoy a hot brew at Moscow’s answer to Starbucks, Stars Coffee which has an almost identical logo to the American corporation and which emerged as a substitute after the Seattle-based company pulled its stores from Russia.

The Russian logo could easily be confused for the well known crown-sporting mermaid which has been swapped for the image of a young woman with flowing locks and a traditional Russian headdress called a kokoshnik.

Vkusno i Tochka, McDonald’s successor, offers a practically identical menu to the American fast food giant.

“The quality of the hamburgers is practically the same. They serve the same as before,” says Dmitri, who sits with his three children at one of the eateries.

He complains that “the fries are not the same, before they were crunchy,” and acknowledges that prices have risen.


Although over 30 Russian regions said Christmas activities would be canceled or limited due to the Kremlin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, some authorities challenged this saying that residents should not be deprived of the festivities and that normal life had to continue despite the war.

Moscow mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, even called a vote to decide on the fate of Christmas celebrations which were backed by 80% of voters.

But, even in the Russian capital, traditional New Year concerts and fireworks have been canceled.

According to a survey published by Pochta Bank, most Russians will also forego ringing in the year with pyrotechnics, with only 26% of those surveyed willing to spend their money on fireworks.

The current financial crunch has meant that this year Russians have spent between 20 and 50% more on festive outgoings than in 2021, according to digital commerce platform OZON. EFE


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