Staunton, May 16 – Moscow’s Dossier Center has acquired a copy of a new Presidential Administration document dated May 7 and prepared on the basis of focus group findings to provide guidance to officials on how to counter what its authors say has been the negative impact of the pandemic on the standing of Vladimir Putin.
The report, the text of which is posted online at dossier.center/covid19/, is discussed today by journalist Nikolay Yaroshenko for the MBK news agency (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/vyrazheny-sushhestvennye/).It provides significant insight on Kremlin concerns, thinking and policy formation.
The report suggests that the regime needs to play up the fact that Russia has reported a smaller number of deaths from the coronavirus relative to the number of infections, with experts disagreeing as to whether they should play up Russian national traditions, the skill of doctors now, and/or Putin’s promotion of improvements in the healthcare system.
One challenge the Kremlin must meet, the report says, is countering the approval many Russians give to countries like Belarus which have not imposed strict restrictions. “It is necessary to destroy the myth about the positive nature of the situation in Belarus,” it says explicitly.
The report said that Putin’s standing could be harmed by a sharp end to the non-working days and urged that instead, he reduce the stringency of the restrictions gradually over several weeks. Four days after the report, however, the Kremlin leader ignored this advice, perhaps because he believed that the governors would keep people inside longer anyway.
Intriguingly, the report acknowledged that Russian citizens generally distrust any positive information and thus suggested government officials and media present stories that allow Russians to reach positive conclusions on their own rather than present such conclusions readymade.
And the report urged some tinkering with the vocabulary in which officials and the state media discuss the pandemic lest something they say lead people to draw conclusions at odds with those the authorities would like them to reach.
Yaroshenko points out that this is not the first such report Dossier has acquired. The Presidential Administration prepared one only a month earlier. It was leaked to the portal and then analyzed by MBK on April 15 at mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/rekomendacii-dlya/.