After wrestling tigers and showing off his taekwondo skills, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the fight to the street. And all for the price of some cold meat. Storming out of a meeting with top retailers, Mr Putin kicked up a storm in a nearby branch of the Perekrestok supermarket chain, accosting a bewildered store executive with a barrage of questions on why their sausages and pork fillets were selling way above ‘normal’ prices. An attempted introduction to sausages cheaper than the offensive 240 roubles was met with another precision strike, armed as the President was with a price list, aimed at the store’s 52-120 per cent mark-ups for frozen meats.
Mr Putin, never known to shy away from the spotlight and always game for a spot of drama, was reacting to a recent opinion poll that showed that two-thirds of Russians were haunted by the demon of rising prices. With Russian inflation riding high at 14 per cent and the country’s economy predicted to shrink at 8 per cent, Mr Putin is trying to ride out the economic storm by using that old populism prop — browbeating big business.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in this for our leaders back home, long-used to cushy aerial tours than to spontaneous walkabouts. If only we shoppers could be treated to impromptu visits by enraged politicos at our neighbourhood kirana stores, brandishing rate sheets for onions and pulses. But the elections are over and inflation’s heading for sub-zero. What a pity.