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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Klin Eggs Paint a Picture of Inflation

KLIN, Moscow Region -- Zinaida Sidorova tugged her wool scarf tighter into her neck. The air was frosty, and trade was slow.

She is 60 and has sold eggs for 12 years at the market in the town of Klin, a two-hour drive north of Moscow, but rising prices have hurt business.

"People complain all the time. They keep asking why? I keep explaining it is linked with rising grain prices," Sidorova said from behind the counter of her stall, piled high with eggs of different sizes and colors.

She was talking about soaring food prices which, weeks before State Duma elections, are still rising and have forced the Kremlin to impose calming measures.

But it's not Moscow's wealthy who are angry and frustrated. They may grumble that the price of their favorite chocolate eclair has jumped to 90 rubles ($3.80) from 50 rubles, but it's the millions of Russians who count each ruble and live mainly in the regions who are feeling the pinch.

This month, around 1,500 pensioners marched through St. Petersburg banging frying pans and shouting slogans against President Vladimir Putin.

At Klin's market, stray dogs scavenged for scraps between the stalls as shoppers, wrapped in heavy coats and carrying plastic bags, browsed and inspected prices.

Sidorova thrust her hands into the pockets of her coat. Still no customers. Today 10 eggs from her stall cost 28 rubles compared with 19 rubles only three months ago, she said.

"If before people used to buy 20 eggs, they now buy just 15 and there are less people shopping," she said.

Drought, increased demand from China and for crops for biofuels has pushed up the price of grain around the world. Russia is also coping with an injection of cash from high oil prices.

The government targeted inflation for the year at 6.5 percent to 8 percent, but it has now readjusted the projection to 11 percent.

There are signs that inflation could dent the popularity of Putin's party, United Russia, in the Duma elections, and the Kremlin has tried to counter it.

A deal with food producers and retailers has frozen prices on basic foodstuffs until next year, and a 10 percent tariff has been slapped on wheat exports to try to boost domestic supply.

Outside Klin's market, a queue of pensioners lined up behind a goods truck. In exchange for a local administration voucher they receive discounted cabbages, potatoes and carrots.

"The market is much more expensive, especially now," Viktor, 67, said. "I don't know what I would do without this."

Klin, a town of 80,000 people, has for 11 years run what it says is the country's only food coupon scheme since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It provides the old and weak with cheap vegetables and is now in more demand than ever.

Prices are fixed at 7 rubles per kilogram -- around half the market rate in the summer but now one-third of the price.

Outside the market Katya, a 22-year-old supermarket worker, strolled arm-in-arm with a friend. She had been shopping before heading off to work, and prices had once again crept up.

"It's a huge problem for everybody as wages just can't keep up with the food price rise," she said. "But it's not Putin's fault, and I will definitely be voting for United Russia.