Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Day Without Ukrainians...

...coming soon to Moscow. And it doesn't sound as though they'll like the results:

Russian farmers are flocking to Preobrazhensky Market in northeast Moscow, filling stalls where foreign vendors used to hawk their produce.

The farmers are coming in response to the government's ongoing effort to rid the country's markets and kiosks of foreign workers by April 1.

And Preobrazhensky Market is having trouble keeping up with demand, said Nikolai, the market's director of sales, who declined to give his last name.

....Some Moscow markets are filled to just between 20 percent and 40 percent of capacity as they wait for Russian vendors to move in, said Vladimir Malyshkov, head of the City Hall department for retail markets and services.

Several stalls at a small, covered market near the Belorusskaya metro station were standing empty Thursday as the result of the city's new quota system, under which half of all stalls in produce markets are reserved for Russian farmers.

A Tajik fruit seller in an adjacent stall said he knew Azeri vendors who wanted to fill the empty slots but who had been turned down.

"Russians don't like this kind of work. It's too hard," said the vendor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution from the market's owners.

Despite such mixed success at the city level, the federal government is pushing ahead with tough new regulations on foreign workers.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed a decree that imposed a total ban on foreign vendors in all markets, kiosks and other small retail outlets as of April 1 next year.

While some food vendors will remain until next April, foreigners will be banned from the retail trade in pharmaceuticals and alcohol Jan. 1, 2007.

During a transition period from Jan. 15 to April 1, the share of foreigners in small retail outlets is set to fall to 40 percent, Fradkov told President Vladimir Putin during a meeting at the president's Novo-Ogaryovo residence last week. ....

Putin told Fradkov that he saw no reason to amend the decree down the line.

"This is not a sector of the economy where we have a labor shortage," Putin said.

Malyshkov, of the city's department for retail markets and services, told a different story. He said Moscow would have trouble filling vacancies in the retail sector without migrant workers.

"I shudder to think what would happen if the Georgians, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Azeris leave this sector," Malyshkov said.

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