Life in Russia under sanctions may parallel what one reporter found in Iran – Fox News

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Russians are proud people. So are Iranians. That’s not all they have in common. 

Theirs are the two most sanctioned countries in the world. Russia has just pushed past the Islamic Republic into first place. When Russia first launched its war in Ukraine, many Russians said they feared they would soon join the ranks of Iran and North Korea. So, Russian journalist Alexei Pivovarov traveled to Tehran to learn what life is like in a rogue state. His dispatch on YouTube got over 4 million views.

“Hi, friends,” he said in the opening sequence. “We’re in Tehran, the capital of Iran. I think you understand why we’re here.”


Alexei Pivovarov in Iran. (Credit: Redakstia)

Alexei Pivovarov in Iran. (Credit: Redakstia)

Pivovarov and his camera crew moved through the streets of the city, visiting outdoor markets, indoor markets, talking to people. He said he learned one could pretty much find anything desperately needed, but explained much of it probably took a circuitous trip to get to Iran. For luxury goods not available in stores, Iranians with means but no visas to travel abroad employ designated “buyers” who have filled suitcases with special orders on trips abroad.

Pivovarov discovered that even though Iran managed to acquire some new desperately needed airplanes in that little window of sanctions reprieve after the Iran nuclear deal was signed but before former President Trump pulled out of it, the county won’t be able to get them serviced now that things have slid backwards. So, Iran has resorted to a sort of aviation organ donor system: When one plane gets taken out of service, whatever parts remain viable are used for the next plane in need.

Pivovarov talked to TASS’ man in Tehran, Nikita Smagin, who said sanctions made Iran start refining its own gasoline, something ironically it hadn’t done much before and apparently doesn’t do well.

“A very big smog appeared over Tehran,” he told Pivovarov. “That’s because the gasoline is of very bad quality, and this is one of the big environmental problems in Iran.”

One of the most striking moments of Pivovarov’s travels: a stop at the money changer who gave him 37 million rials for $150, he said, holding the huge stack of notes up to the camera. Russia’s ambassador to Iran said at least the two countries were looking forward to expanding mutual cooperation in the current environment, but admitted Russia probably won’t be a lifeline for Iran’s beleaguered tourism industry largely because of the prohibition on drinking.

If Pivovarov is pondering what Russia’s future could look like, Maxim Trudolyubov is analyzing its past, and lessons that were not learned.

Trudolyubov is editor-at-large at Meduza, one of Russia’s most popular independent news organizations, labeled a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin and functioning in exile. He also has served as senior fellow at the Kennan Institute for Russian studies. Trudolyubov said the fact that Russia never fully dealt with and apportioned blame for crimes committed under Soviet rule meant it never has moved past a reality of lies and KGB management of state.


“What we see now in Ukraine is almost every single crime of the Soviet state resurrected, in a way, out of the grave. We’ve seen murder. We see attitudes towards our neighboring countries as some kind of buffer states that don’t have any right to sovereignty,” Trudolyubov told Fox News.

He said Russia and Russians have long crafted their image on something easier than digging into the darker aspects of the past, and that has been their victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. 

“It was sort of an all-encompassing ticket to goodness in a way for many, many Russians. And it’s gone. What Putin has done, essentially, is that he has killed, eliminated this narrative of Russia’s goodness and being on the right side of history, the moral standing that derives from that. He still pretends that he’s fighting Nazis, but everybody understands that this is a lie. This is a pretense, a smokescreen for him to feel good.”

Fox News asked Trudolyubov whether he thought Putin’s deputies, such as his urbane Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, actually believe what they are saying about this war that they won’t call a war. TrudolyIubov said he believes the propagandists have made some sort of mental shift and that their posture was in the same category as the government’s failure to deal with bad parts of the past. 

“Blaming the state essentially kills the state. It’s against Russia, it’s anti-Russian, it’s Russophobia, as they like to point out. So, my understanding is, Lavrov and all the propagandists, particularly those who believe partly what they say, subscribe to this kind of notion,” he said.

But, he added that he still thought they knew the truth.


Russia and Iran have both been defiant about the sanctions they faced, often arguing they strengthened domestic production, made them truly independent countries. But, even the TASS correspondent in Tehran said: Make no mistake; nobody wanted them. 

“Iranians hope they won’t stay under sanctions. There is a consensus in Iran. No matter whether the forces are conservative or reformist, everyone says that sanctions need to be lifted and that normal development under them is not possible,” he said.


Pivovarov finished his piece with roughly the following thought: There is always a way around sanctions, a wheeling, dealing work-around. But, what’s important for citizens to consider is whether the reason behind the sanctions is something worth the sacrifice.

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