Staunton, May 15 – The number of cases of coronavirus infection in Russia continues to rise approximately 10,000 each day. As a result, it now stands at 262,000. And today, the World Health Organization said that Russia, along with Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan is the epicenter of the epidemic (charter97.org/ru/news/2020/5/15/376582/).
But the number of reported deaths from the pandemic in Russia remains remarkably low, the result, doctors, demographers and journalists tell the Meduza news agency of directives to ascribe to other causes deaths from the coronavirus in order to make the Russian government look good (meduza.io/feature/2020/05/14/prosto-zapreschayut-umirat-ot-koronavirusa).
There is a growing sense in Russia that despite that effort, the pandemic has undercut Putin’s image as a strong man in charge and that he is now appearing on television before the population to try to reverse that (themoscowtimes.com/2020/05/14/as-the-coronavirus-contagion-grows-in-russia-putins-strongman-image-weakens-a70257 and mk.ru/politics/2020/05/15/putin-v-pryamom-efire-povysil-podpolkovnika-po-sluzhbe.html).
But if the deaths can be misassigned and thus hidden, other developments cannot. Ever more Russian firms are in trouble, with ten percent now on the brink of bankruptcy and 51 percent saying they will cease operation if the current limitation regime is not ended within a couple of months (interfax.ru/russia/708794).
Ever more Russians especially in the so-called “sleeping quarters” of major cities are ignoring the government’s order to stay home and use masks, yet another measure of the declining authority the government in general and Vladimir Putin in particular enjoys there (region.expert/politeconomy/).
And the government has not been able to convince Russians to take even the simplest means of combatting the spread of the virus: According to one survey, almost 25 percent of Russians are still refusing to wash their hands on a regular basis despite being told to do so (ura.news/articles/1036280219).
A major flashpoint may become the spring draft which has now started, albeit a month late. Young men are being processed in many places in ways that will ensure the spread of the coronavirus, presenting both the Russian military and the Russian population will a new set of problems and new reasons for anger (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/ocheredi-v-koridorax/).
New polls show that Russians are not going to emerge from the pandemic in a positive frame of mind. Indeed, the findings of the sociologists suggest that ever more will be inclined to protest one way or another. The big question now is whether the Kremlin can legitimately garner a majority for its constitutional amendments (ura.news/articles/1036280231).
Meanwhile, there was a slew of other developments on Russia’s pandemic front:
· The only people looking after the homeless are volunteer groups, and they are being harassed by the authorities, leaving those without homes often without food or hope (mbk-news.appspot.com/suzhet/bezdomnye-bez-chaya/).
· A Russian specialist on viruses says that the hijab is “a wonderful defense against the coronavirus,” a statement that will undercut the efforts of some officials to force Muslim women not to wear them (doshdu.com/virusolog-nazval-hidzhab-horoshej-zashhitoj-ot-koronavirusa/).
The number of poor in Russian has risen during the pandemic from 18 million to 30 million “or even more,” Moscow sociologists say (business-gazeta.ru/article/468544
· Despite Putin promises, first responders such as ambulance crews are not being paid bonuses and some of them are now planning strikes to get the money (themoscowtimes.com/2020/05/15/siberian-ambulance-crews-vow-hunger-strike-over-putins-unpaid-virus-bonuses-a70284).
· Ever more media rights activists are saying that the Russian government, under the cover of the pandemic, is further suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of media in the country (graniru.org/Society/Media/Freepress/m.278548.html).
Workers at distant construction sites are being held at these workplaces against their will in the name of combatting the coronavirus even when those involved have tested negative (thebarentsobserver.com/en/2020/05/anger-grows-sabetta-workers-are-not-allowed-return-home