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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Russia bans state purchase of foreign-made cars

There's a joke going the rounds in Russia that the West has thought for months about the best way to use sanctions to hurt the Russian middle classes. Then President Putin banned imports of food from the West, and did it for them. There's also the Russian man who smashed his Apple iPad and iPhone, and poured away a bottle of Coca Cola, to demonstrate his feelings about the United States (does he realise it isn't necessary to be Russian to feel that way, sometimes?). And the leading Russian watchmaker has stopped exporting its products to the West, too.

In a protectionist move unrelated to (and predating) the current sanctions the Russian government has also cut off its nose to spite its face and banned state purchase of foreign-made cars,  according to Automotive News. The avowed aim is to help local manufacturers. That includes locally-produced foreign brands. What is the likely effect of this? Only a drop in sales of the big cars that the nomenklatura like to be seen in. Oligarchs are unlikely to change their preferences. Given that Mr Putin is reported to be unhappy with the latest Zil limousine (and who wouldn't be, if it looks like that?), he too might be reluctant to give up the Man and the Merc, as Irish politicians' transport used to be referred to. Does Mr Putin have a Merc? Who knows? But last time I was in Moscow, crossing Balotnaya Square, a huge convoy of assorted dark-coloured limos and SUVs shot past from the direction of the Kremlin. My Russian companion observed that someone important was on the move. 'Mr Putin?' I enquired. No, it seemed that the convoy wasn't nearly big enough for him. Perhaps as the effects of this rule are felt he'll content himself with a less ostentatious presence on the roads. Or flag down a Lada gypsy cab.

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