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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow's market basket fills up, at last

In a result that would delight advocates of price liberalization. The Associated Press, which has been tracking the availability of food and consumer goods for six months, for the first time found everything on its Moscow shopping list - albeit at much higher prices.

The AP reported this week that state stores carried everything in its so-called "Moscow Marketbasket", a list of 15 food and consumer items. Reporters have scoured stores in downtown Moscow in attempts to fill the basket.

Items on the shopping-list include sugar, which AP found this week for 83. 60 rubles per kilogram, and butter, priced at 198 rubles per kilogram, about four times last month's price of 56 rubles, the report said.

The Moscow Marketbasket has tracked these items since the beginning of January, when President Boris Yeltsin's order to lift price controls led to sharp price increases.

Its findings would come as no surprise to advocates of radical price reform who argue that lifted controls bring goods in a reliable way to once empty state stores.

This week, a midday survey showed stores in downtown Moscow to be full of items shoppers only dreamed about when prices were still controlled. But while variety and availability have improved, shoppers say that stores have a long way to go before they mirror their counterparts in the West.

"We can't even find milk", said Dima Andreyev, 25, an engineer for a private firm, as he was leaving a supermarket on Shmitovsky Proyezd. "I'd buy it even if it were expensive. It's for our child".

"Look, prices keep going up but there are still crazy lines and nothing to buy", said Maria Nikiforovna, a pensioner fighting to keep her place in a long milk line at the large Yeliseevsky supermarket on Tverskaya Street. She was waiting to buy 1-liter cartons of milk at 1. 65 rubles each, a price she said she could barely afford. She laughed at the suggestion that she purchase a liter of Finnish long-life milk, offered at the counter for 21. 40 rubles.

"Oh, I could never buy that", she laughed. "But I've waited here two hours and probably I'll get up to the head of the line and they'll say there's no more of this milk".

The Smolensky supermarket, another major downtown grocery was filled with sausage, beef, fish, tomatoes and cucumbers. Bananas, a newcomer to Moscow supermarkets, were being sold for 181 rubles a kilogram, lower than in other downtown shops. Lines at the store's few cash registers were long, but most shoppers said there was little they could buy.

"I haven't bought meat in two years", said one pensioner. "It's very expensive even now, when my pension is 900 rubles".