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Bread, Milk Hold Steady So Far, But Shoppers Fear The Worst With PM-Soviet-Marketbasket-Table

March 11, 1992

MOSCOW (AP) _ The cost of bread and milk remained stable this week despite a Russian government decree to lift price controls on them, according to a survey of selected stores in the capital.

Sugar was nowhere to be found in the seven food stores checked in the AP’s ″Moscow Marketbasket″ survey. Milk was found in only three stores, but managers and customers said the shops were getting supplies regularly.

On Saturday, President Boris N. Yeltsin decreed that price controls would be abolished on the basic goods of bread, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, sugar, salt, cooking oil and matches. Controls on nearly all other food and consumer items had been lifted on Jan. 2 as Russia moved toward a free market system.

The price of milk was 1.95 rubles a liter (1.83 rubles a quart), up slightly from last week’s 1.44 rubles a liter (1.35 rubles a quart). The average monthly salary is 960 rubles.

At a bread store - where more than 100 people lined up before its doors opened at 8 a.m. - loaves of white bread sold for 3.95 rubles, compared with last week’s price of 4.20 rubles.

The newspaper Izvestia reported that it has been left up to local officials to decide when prices would rise for the basic goods covered under Saturday’s decree.

Shoppers expressed fear Tuesday that the impending increases would force them to tighten their belts even further.

″Life will be harder than ever,″ said Raisa Zakhmatova, 60. ″Bread and milk is my main food now, as I cannot afford meat.″

″I have a pension of 342 rubles after 40 years of hard work, and it’s not fair to make me starve now,″ she said. ″(Mikhail) Gorbachev gets 4,000 and he complains it is not enough.″

Nina Filipova, a 63-year-old pensioner, said that with the price increases, she has reconciled herself ″that I will never have a single new piece of clothing in my life.″

″Now, I think I’ll have to get used to the thought of slowly dying of hunger, or begging,″ she said. ″I just barely manage to survive now, and I don’t know what will happen when bread and milk prices go up.″

Under Saturday’s decree, vodka and baby food will be among the few products to remain under price controls.

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