Staunton, January 8 – Vladimir Putin and the Russian authorities continue to claim that Russia has conducted one of the most successful responses to the coronavirus pandemic, but, according to Rosbalt commentator Sergey Shelin, “there is not a single word of truth in any of these assertions” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2021/01/08/1879744.html).
Instead, he argues, there are five ways in which Moscow’s performance has been especially bad with especially unfortunate consequences for the Russian people. First, the self-deception the government has engaged in has kept it from identifying and then addressing the most serious problems.
Second, Russia is a police state, but it is a failed one. Unlike the police states in Asia which clamped down hard against the pandemic and, as a result, were able to achieve remarkable successes in reducing infections and deaths in a short time, Russia has been ineffective in doing so and as a result is suffering more infections and deaths as well as economic losses.
Third, the Russian system is predicated on the active presence of Putin at all times. But during the pandemic, he has retreated to his bunker to prevent being infected. The result is that the Russian regime is rudderless and acts in inconsistent and contradictory ways, a pattern that could have been avoided had Putin stayed on the job.
Fourth, Moscow properly responded to the first wave with a lockdown but having proclaimed victory and fearful of suffering more economic consequences, it did not keep it in place long enough to end the pandemic in Russia but instead eased restrictions with the consequence that it soon suffered a second wave.
And fifth, when that second wave did arrive and proved more far more serious than the first, the Kremlin found itself trapped. It couldn’t reimpose a lockdown without its own claims being shown as hollow and, as a result, far more Russians have suffered infections and deaths than had to be the case.
Today, the Russian authorities announced that they had registered 23,652 new cases of infection and 454 new deaths over the past 24 hours (t.me/COVID2019_official/2317), as some places like St. Petersburg which had seen improvements suffered more while others saw their situations ease (regnum.ru/news/society/3154313.html and regnum.ru/news/3158250.html).
On the vaccine front, Moscow city officials announced they have set up 70 backup vaccination sites (regnum.ru/news/3158306.html), the Chumakov lab said was developing a third Russian vaccine (regnum.ru/news/3158317.html), and officials continued to say that the Sputnik-5 vaccine has significant “competitive advantages” compared to Western medications (regnum.ru/news/3158314.html).
` On the economic front, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin told the Trade and Industrial Chamber that “the absolute majority of measures of the plan for the restoration of the economy of Russia from the coronavirus pandemic had been fulfilled (regnum.ru/news/3158359.html). But Russians continue to withdraw money from banks, leaving them with fewer funds to make loans (finanz.ru/novosti/valyuty/rossiyskie-banki-zavershili-god-s-deficitom-rubley-1029931250).
Meanwhile in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Ever more Russians fear that their country’s vaccine isn’t safe because Moscow rushed to use it on the population even though it still has not completed the third stage of clinical tries that all scientists agree are needed to ensure safety and reliability (newizv.ru/news/society/08-01-2021/vaktsinatsiya-vlasti-vedut-besposchadnuyu-borbu-s-kovidom-zapuskaya-novye-krugi-ada).
· Moscow has suspended its e-visa program until the end of the pandemic as part of its effort to control the spread of the coronavirus (evisa.kdmid.ru/en-US/Home/Index).
· Moscow television featured a report that Russians with obesity or diabetes are twice as likely to land in the hospital than others if they get the virus and 50 percent more likely to die from the disease (versia.ru/za-sutki-v-rossii-vyyavleno-23-652-sluchaya-zarazheniya-koronavirusom-i-454-letalnyx-isxoda