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Moscow barbers describe fight for survival as mobilization cuts staff and customers

Moscow barber Artemiy Zlotorevsky has been faced with a drastic drop in his clients since Russia started mobilizing men to fight for Ukraine. He is now learning how to cut the hair of women to keep his business afloat.

Three barbers in Moscow said that hundreds of thousands men have joined the army or fled Russia within the past month.

After President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order of 21 September, Zolotorevsky sais that a seasonal decline in bookings was more common. Staff numbers are also decreasing.

He said that many of his regular clients were sharing stories on Instagram about their departures. “We lost key staff members, and this trend is continuing – men are leaving more often.”

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Zolotorevsky stated that “there are more women left… so I decided it was probably time to expand my skill set, start cutting their hair, I use the metro to see more women than men so it seems sensible to expand in this area”.

He added: “I don’t see any other way out of it yet.”

Kirill Kryukov, another barber, said that Citizen Barbershop, where he works, lost approximately 30% of its clients within minutes of the mobilization announcement. Staff were also affected.

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He said that Pasha, his colleague, was taken away and mobilized. This has had a very negative impact on business revenues.

Sergei Abubekerov, barbershop owner, said that his profession was particularly vulnerable. “Being a barber, it is a creative occupation where many young, progressive men work. Many of them have left, it is obvious.

He said that many of his friends and acquaintances from Russia had left. “The problem is that the business doesn’t have enough employees.”

Last week, the central bank stated that mobilisation is presenting new challenges, particularly for small and medium-sized businesses. This highlights risks related to a shrinking workforce and consumer and business confidence.

Maria Shagina, research fellow at IISS, stated that mobilisation had worsened an already existing Russian brain drain.

She said that “SMEs have been disproportionately impacted” to Reuters. “Businesses fought for subsidies and state funds prior to mobilization. Now they fight for the workers.”

Although the Kremlin announced financial assistance for mobilizes, barbers claimed that their businesses have not received any.

Zolotorevsky said: “We had no support from authorities, not during COVID pandemic nor now. There is no support.”

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