It seems that the sanctions imposed by Vladimir Putin in response to pressure from the West turned out a bigger surprise to Russians themselves than to the EU, USA, Canada, Australia and Norway. In Smolensk store Nikolayevsky Euroradio was told that "all's quiet" for the moment.
"Oh, you know, what I can tell you ... I'm a regular seller. So far, all is quiet, they are bringing things as usual," the store employee tells me with a laugh.
She also adds that on the Nikolaevsky shelves there are actually a lot of products from the "black list." Cheese, fish, fruit. What can replace them is still unclear.
The list of products banned for import into Russia was published by the Russian government in the afternoon of 7 August. There's all kinds of beef and pork, poultry, milk and dairy products, fish and seafood, sausage, fruit and vegetables. Even nuts. For a year all of these will be prohibited from imports into Russia from the European Union, the USA, Canada, Australia and others that recently introduced sanctions against Russia. Up until now Russia has imported 70% of fruit and 30% meat. Particularly from the EU, the USA and Australia. Belarusian producers are rejoicing:
"Of course, we hope to increase our supply to Russia as a result. But it is too early to say, we need to wait for a real ban, to evaluate the results. Currently 80% of our exports go to Russia," told Euroradio Andrei Ranitsa, deputy head of foreign economic activity department of Mogilev Babulina Krynka.
It is true that the high demand on the Russian market may suddenly hit Belarusians with rising prices. According to the economic expert, it will be difficult to increase exports without accruing losses on the internal market. If at all possible.
"At this point 70% of our shipments are for export, and only 30% are for the domestic market. Increase in exports without losses on the internal market does not seem viable. Therefore, we should expect an increase in prices."
Mikhail Zhdanouski, deputy director for Commercial Affairs at the Orsha cheese-factory, commented on the benefit for Belarusian food companies. Belarusians will adjust to the needs of the Russians faster than any Brazilians.
"Essentially, those who make dairy products, hard cheese, butter, they will clearly gain from it. While Brazil files an application (laughs), while the ship is sent, our producers will be fast to react. Belarus is close. The only thing that matters is that prices will rise."
The economist is calm about the domestic market. He said that the Belarusian government had coped with bigger troubles in the past.
"What do you mean market will collapse? You know that in Belarus there is such thing as socially significant products? In any case, it is regulated administratively. So it was when we had the so-called default. Factories received orders for production volumes needed to supply in particular regions. It is the administrative resource."
Meanwhile, Putin has already called Lukashenka and Nazarbayev asking to agree on the "common economic policy" in connection with the Russian sanctions. It's time to pray for Minsk not to think about joining them.