Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Putin Declares Pandemic a National Security Threat, Gives FSB and Siloviki Outsized Role in Combatting It

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 13 – Faced with record numbers of infections, hospitalizations and deaths, evidence that Russians are ignoring government calls to take protective measures, and expert assessments that the regime will have to fight the coronavirus for at least another year, Vladimir Putin has created an inter-agency commission in the Security Council to oversee this effort (

            Not surprisingly, given Putin’s preferences, the FSB and other force structures will have an outsized role in this body, an indication that the Kremlin may be preparing to adopt harsher measures in order to avoid another lockdown of the kind medical experts have urged lest that harm the economy (

            The central monitoring staff reported the highest levels of new infections (13,868), new deaths (244), and hospitalizations daily (over 90 percent of all hospital beds allocated to coronavirus victims filled) ever, in many cases far higher than last spring when Russians viewed the pandemic as a threat (

            But despite these numbers, polls and other surveys showed that Russians no longer are acting according to official recommendations because they no longer fear that they will get infected. The alarming new numbers aren’t affecting them, and officials are seeking new means to mobilize the population ( and

            Most worrisome for the regime, of course, are predictions that the pandemic will not disappear anytime soon and that restrictions will have to be in place at least through next year if not longer, measures that threaten to prevent any economic recovery (

            Perhaps indicative of where things are headed is one commentator’s argument that the Kremlin has not made use of all “the Russian totalitarian” mechanisms that it has at its disposal and that could lead to a victory over the pandemic (

            While Moscow remained a hotspot and saw more restrictions today, including the closure of courtrooms to journalists and other observers ( and massive fines for those not wearing masks (, the pandemic continued to ebb and flow beyond the ring road (

            Ever more classes and entire schools are shifting to distance learning, creating problems for pupils, students and parents, including more visits by all to psychiatrists for help ( and

            One new restriction that attracted notice today: Belarus will not allow Russian citizens to enter that country if they do not have certification that they are not infected with the coronavirus (

            Testing for Russian vaccines continues, with 10,000 Russians having been tested so far and 30,000 scheduled to be ( And the government approved extending testing to people over 60 (

            In other medical developments, doctors warned the coronavirus infections may leave men sterile (, the government distributed a standard treatment regime for victims of the disease (, and 45 percent of Russians said they don’t think they need to get vaccinated against the flu (

            On the economic front, analysts say official figures have failed to capture the full extent of the collapse and closure of small and mid-sized firms (, foreign investment in Russia has fallen 80 percent since the start of the pandemic (, and regional governments have run deficits of 500 billion rubles (seven billion US dollars) over the same period (

            Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         The pandemic has highlighted the collapse of medicine in rural areas that has occurred because of Putin’s “optimization” program, experts and residents say (

·         Orenburg officials have begun using drones to deliver food to those infected with the coronavirus but who remain at home (

·         And more well-to-do Russians are using the pandemic slowdown as the occasion to introduce digital technology into their homes for security and other systems (

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