Sanctions and a collapsing ruble have financially frozen Russians, many of whom are trying to flee.
Many in Moscow have cited soaring inflation as the most egregious problem.
Those who spoke with Insider for this story requested their names be changed for their safety.
Yuriy Shatalov (not his real name), an equity trader in Moscow, is waking every morning to a dystopian nightmare as he tries to adjust to Russia's isolation from the global economy and provide for his family.
"Every day I wake up understanding that something horrible has happened, and it takes me five seconds to recall what it was," said Shatalov, who since 1995 has worked at a string of brokerages in the Russian capital — many of which have gone bust.
"It's exactly the same feeling I experienced when my father died: You know something is wrong, but I just cannot immediately understand what exactly. I feel ashamed. I feel my country will be dismantled, ruined, and humiliated, exactly like Germany in the past."
With the ruble collapsing by about 50% against the dollar, many financiers like Shatalov raced to empty their bank accounts before capital controls were imposed by the Kremlin.
The run on banks sparked a buying spree of consumer and electronic goods in Russia's biggest cities
With their currency in freefall, many in Russia's middle-class decided it was better to store value in goods rather than stash their hard-earned rubles under the mattress.
"I bought myself a new iPhone 13. My previous one was very old and broken," Shatalov said. "I bought a Samsung tablet. We also had our BMW serviced, and we bought new tires."
Alec Shevrin, a managing director at an investment bank in Moscow, splurged on a brand-new Lexus plug-in hybrid and a dishwasher.
"My wife and I both have newish cars, so we don't really need it," Shevrin told Insider. "But we have all these rubles, and I would rather buy something now than watch them become completely worthless."
Many Muscovites have also been stockpiling food and essentials in anticipation of shortages
Some supermarkets across Russia are already reporting a deficit in sugar and "grechka," or buckwheat, a popular Russian staple.
"We stocked up on canned corn and some olive oil," Shatalov said. "My daughter suffers from celiac disease, and it was always hard to find gluten-free stuff over here in Russia. Now it will become impossible, so we bought as much gluten-free reserves as we could."
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko warned on Monday against panic-buying as a number of supermarkets reported shortages due to a surge in consumer demand.
Shatalov and his family are not planning to leave the country anytime soon due to fear of Russophobia — anti-Russian sentiment — and a concern that the remaining few airlines operating in Russia are not very safe.
"I'm afraid someone will hear me speaking Russian and will slap me on my face right in the middle of the restaurant," he said. "Also, I don't want to encounter Ukrainians, and there are now millions of them in Europe. They have every right to be angry at us."
Inability to access funds is adding to frustrations
Shatalov has been able to withdraw all of his valuable foreign-exchange savings from Sberbank and VTB, Russia's two largest lenders. But he said Citi in Russia is allowing him to withdraw only a fraction of his six-figure savings.
"Citi has effectively defaulted on me," he said. "They refused not only to give me back my US dollars; they also played for time. They didn't give me a date in the future when I could come to get my money. Now Citi said I could come by on April 1 to collect just $10,000."
As a foreign citizen, the banker Chris Watson (not his real name), 43, will need a special permit to buy and sell his holdings in securities and real estate under strict new laws passed by the Kremlin.
"I bought an apartment last year in Moscow off-plans, and now I am trying to transfer it to my daughter's name, as she is a Russian citizen," said Watson, who has lived in the capital for 15 years.
Arkady Kazmin (not his real name), a senior banker at one of the few remaining foreign lenders in Moscow, is furious at the West for introducing sanctions that are hurting the very people who oppose the war.
"The sanctions introduced by Visa and Mastercard are financially paralyzing my friends who are journalists, artists, and opposition figures trying to flee the country," said Kazmin, who is planning to relocate to Dubai. "Tough life choices have been made much tougher because they can't access their funds to relocate."
The alternative payment networks to Visa and Mastercard are Russia's Mir and China's UnionPay, but reports about both are mixed at best.
"It's a rare bank that accepts these cards, and it's only accepted on most popular tourist routes and at huge shopping malls, which I tend to avoid," Shatalov said. "One needs to really want to travel to use Union, and I'm not that eager — I have traveled the world and will somehow survive."
Almost everyone Insider spoke with in Moscow cited soaring inflation as the most egregious problem
The Central Bank of Russia, which doubled the key interest rate to 20% after the invasion, will meet again on Friday to decide whether to raise rates again.
"We have been really light on risk, and we are overweight on oil, but inflation hurts everyone," said Konstantin Gusev (not his real name), a 47-year-old fund manager. "This you can't trade."
"We are at the point of no return," said Gusev, who has sent his son to Israel to escape conscription. "And I saw the Yukos destruction when no one said it would happen. Once the machine starts, you can't stop it. That's the risk now."
Putin warned last week that Russians should be prepared for an increase in unemployment over the coming weeks, blaming the West and Russian "traitors" for attacking Russia and the Russian economy.
Elina Ribakova, the deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, warned that Russia's economy could shrink by as much as 20% in 2022 — a far cry from the 6% growth Putin has enjoyed for much of his reign.