In March, for the first time since 2008, Russians spent over half their income on food, beverages and cigarettes, according to government statistics, and more people are resorting to borrowing at astronomical interest rates. MOSCOW — They have stripped and sexually abused a woman, severely burned a toddler by firebombing a house and broken a woman’s pinkie as a warning. Gang members, bandits, mobsters? Not exactly. These are debt collectors, a peculiarly Russian variety that is flourishing amid the country’s economic turmoil. As a punishing recession stretches into a second year, people struggling to make ends meet are resorting in growing numbers to borrowing at astronomical interest rates that many cannot possibly afford. With unpaid debts mushrooming, collection has turned into something of a blood sport reminiscent of the shocking gang violence of the 1990s, with threats and violence by […]