For more than a year, Russian leaders have been stoic in the face of their country’s faltering economy, brought on by economic sanctions imposed after its seizure of the Crimea.
But now, as things get worse, that bravado appears to be crumbling.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev recently warned Russians that it may be time to brace for “the worst scenario.” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said he couldn’t rule out another deep crisis, like when the ruble collapsed in 1998-99.
Russia is reeling from its dependence on oil exports. In 2015, the country’s gross domestic product sank 3.7 percent, slightly less than expected, but the downturn is entrenched, and investment and retail suffering.
The country’s Department of Labor estimates that unemployment this year will climb above 6 percent, and many see little chance of improvement soon.
“This probably won’t bottom out until the second quarter of 2016,” said Natalia Orlova, a chief economist at Alfa Bank.