(AP) MOSCOW — Last week, tens of thousands of Russians sunning themselves on Italian beaches and Turkish resorts received an unpleasant surprise: their tour companies had gone bust, stranding them and forcing them to pay double for a ticket to get home.
The bankruptcy is the fifth among major Russian tour companies in less than two months — a sign that cracks are appearing in Russia's economy after a months-long conflict in eastern Ukraine and an escalating stand-off with the West.
It's not just sanctioned Russian billionaires who are feeling the pinch now — uncertainty over the future has caused the currency to drop, hurting the average Russian's ability to travel abroad and buy imported goods. And as new sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union start to bite, companies worry about a looming recession and a future without access to the West's massive financial markets.
"The more tense the geopolitical situation, the more expensive (foreign) currency will be," said Konstantin Sonin, an economist at Moscow's Higher School of Economics. "And with sanctions, it becomes harder for financial institutions to give credit, and there will be fewer business projects and fewer goods being produced. Income and salaries drop and consumption doesn't increase." […]
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