The Ukraine conflict has upended life for most Vietnamese living in Russia, but they are gradually adapting to the situation.
In the first few months since the conflict broke out in February last year, the Vietnamese community was hit hard as the ruble tumbled and Russia was hit by western sanctions.
Binh, 27, the owner of a Vietnamese food shop in Moscow, says: “Goods supplies from many countries were blocked, while prices climbed by 30-50%. Some goods even saw prices rise by 300-500%.”
There are around 80,000 Vietnamese living in Russia, more than 20% of whom in Moscow, according to Vietnamese embassy in Russia. Many of them work in trade or retailing.
As the war broke out, all Vietnamese businesspeople in Russia were hit either directly or indirectly, and some chose to sell their assets or decided to return to Vietnam.
Binh says migration activities in the months that followed the conflicts have made Russian authorities tighten inspection on foreigners.
But now, after a year of turbulence, most Vietnamese say life has returned to normal and daily activities are not disrupted unlike before.
Ho Sy Bang, standing deputy chairman of the Nghe An Compatriots Club in Moscow, says food prices are now mostly steady.
“The pandemic and the war had greatly impacted everyone’s lives.”
Phan Manh Hung, 56, the owner of sports clothing manufacturing company Ruviteks in Moscow, says his firm made long-term plans when the war began, buying enough materials for six or seven months.
His company also started to make certain goods for the government, he says.
“Amid disruptions, the business mindset also has to change. We must think for the long term and adjust to the times.”
Since there are no shortages and prices are largely steady, people do not hoard things, he adds.
Inflation in Russia in February 2022, before the war began, had been 9.2%, according to Statista. It rose to 17.8% in April 2022 before gradually falling to 11.77% last January.
Among the Vietnamese most affected by the conflict are students getting scholarships under the Vietnam-Russia Agreement since several Russian banks are blocked from SWIFT, the international payments mechanism, making it difficult to transfer money.
The students get a monthly stipend of US$420 from the Vietnamese government and free accommodation and tuition from Russia.
Some students did not receive their money for six months to even a year, forcing them to tighten their belts and work part-time jobs.
Hong Ngoc, 25, who imports Chinese clothing to Moscow, says she is worried about possible risks from a falling ruble this year.
Putin said last November that Russia was moving away from the U.S. dollar and euro, while China and Russia are cooperating to establish their own payments system.
Ngoc believes “everything will go well” as Russia increases the usage of the Chinese yuan and bolsters cooperation with China.
“Bombs and bullets only hurt people. We hope the parties will negotiate to end the conflict.”
Hung says many Russians and Vietnamese want to see an end to the conflict.
“We Vietnamese understand too well the atrocities of bombs and bullets. I just want world leaders to find a common voice, because happiness and peace can only come if there are no sounds of gunshots.”
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