Sunday, April 19, 2020

Kremlin’s Chaotic Actions and Clumsy Propaganda about Pandemic Infuriating Russians, Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 17 – No one expected that the Russian government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic would be “elegant and well-thought-out,” Sergey Shelin says; but few could imagine that Moscow would shoot itself in the head twice, first by not offering a consistent plan and second by not using its propaganda resources in an effective way.

            Instead, the Rosbalt commentator says, the approach of officials has been chaotic as any Russian can see; and the efforts of the Kremlin’s propagandists, instead of calming the situation, have had the effect of further infuriating a population already outraged by what has been done to it rather than for it (

            The authorities keep proclaiming that they have achieved ever new successes in the fight with the pandemic and are offering ever more assistance to the population. But those with eyes to see can’t identify the successes, and those who try to gain access to this “assistance” find that it is hardly available to those who need it most, Shelin continues.

            For example, the labor minister says that unemployment has gone up by only 44,000 since the start of the year and now stands at 735,000 when anyone can see that there are in fact millions of people out of work.  And that official duplicity extends even to information services for those who are not suffering as much.

            Anyone who turns to the official coronavirus website (стопкоронавирус.рф/) will find not real information but the claims of agitators who “explain that things are in any case better with us than with them, that Russia pays doctors more than they get in the West, and that Russians must not in any case read or listen” to “slanderers” saying otherwise.

            Most Russians, including at least for public consumption Vladimir Putin, would like to know where the pandemic is heading, when it will reach its peak, and when it will end. But the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences says his body has “no direct organized resource to occupy itself with such issues.”

            “He speaks the truth,” Shelin says; “but that doesn’t make things any easier for the ordinary Russian.”  Instead, he is given optimistic predictions by those close to the powers that the peak is very near and less optimistic ones by scientists and doctors that it may not come until mid-summer. 

            It thus turns out and is becoming ever more obvious that ‘the regime doesn’t have in reserve not just an anti-epidemic strategy but any short-term predictions on which one could be based.” It is flailing around and can be seen to be flailing around. And some of what officials are saying raises more questions than it answers.

            When the emergency services ministry said it would be better for people not to wear protective masks in public, at least some Russians reflected that this may not be its position but that of the siloviki who don’t want such masks to get in the way of their facial identification technologies.

            Not surprisingly, the polls show confidence in and support for those at the top of the government falling, Shelin continues.  Some say this doesn’t matter. That might be the case if the powers were working effectively. But as it is, they seem only to be spinning and grinding their wheels – and all Russians can see that.

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