Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Kremlin has Plenty of Money for Guns But Not Much for Butter or Healthcare

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 15 – Moscow is currently discussing whether it can find money to help ordinary Russians who are suffering as a result of the pandemic and economics crisis (, but the Kremlin has no difficulty in boosting military spending 11.5 percent (

            Over the last 24 hours, there were 8246 new cases of coronavirus infections (the lowest figure since May 1) bringing the cumulative total to 537,210. The number of officially registered deaths increased by 143 to 7091 (  and

            New reports call these numbers into question, however. On the one hand, Open Media reports that coronavirus deaths in St. Petersburg have been 6.5 times official numbers (

And on the other, Perm officials say they will no longer count as infected those who test positive but are asymptomatic ( If officials elsewhere are doing the same thing, that will hold Russian numbers down significantly perhaps by half or more.

There were two pieces of good news: A VTsIOM survey found that 83 percent of Russians say did observe the self-isolation regime ( And the Biokal company said it was beginning animal trials on a possible coronavirus vaccine (

Regions are reopening even when the rate of infection does not justify this. Sverdlovsk Oblast, for example, is reopening even as infections have gone up 132 percent ( Chechnya has also reopened without new data (

Moscow is pledging to open more things sooner ( and  But some observers say that as bad as the quarantine was, the reopening is likely to be much worse (

More than a dozen major Russian cities have cancelled plans for the Victory parade on June 24, with more likely to in the coming days if infections do not fall or still worse go up (, and

Today brought more bad economic news of all kinds. Retail trade has declined by up to 95 percent across the board since the start of the pandemic ( Unemployment rose in the first two weeks of June by 16 percent ( And companies are struggling because banks won’t give them the two percent loans the government promised (

The banks aren’t lending to businesses or to ordinary Russians because 37 percent of them are now operating at a loss and cannot afford to take on a larger loan portfolio ( and

Analysts are suggesting that Russia must get used to a new normal for some time in terms of both the coronavirus and the economy.  A leading Moscow epidemiologist says that the likelihood that the coronavirus will mutate makes any vaccine that may appear far less successful than some officials are suggesting (

And one economist says that Russia must get used to a world in which demand for and prices of oil and gas will be far lower than Moscow has been used to (, while another says that Moscow’s expectations that domestic tourism will boom are wrong (

Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related news from Russia today,

·         Russian officials have announced plans to put “smart cameras” in all 43,000 schools in the country given their success during the pandemic (

·         Russian tourist firms stand to lose “more than four billion rubles” (60 million US dollars) if the Saudis cancel the haj ( Muslims in the North Caucasus say they are ready to reschedule for next year (

·         Rights activists say officials are misusing data the latter have collected during the imposition of fines for those who have violated self-isolation regimes (

·         Human Rights Watch warns that Russian doctors are being threatened by officials when they have complained about conditions related to the pandemic (россия/20200615-hrw-российские-медики-столкнулись-с-угрозами-после-жалоб-на-условия-работы).

·         In the hopes of boosting economic recovery, the Duma may lift risk assessment requirements on new construction, thus opening the way to more technogenic disasters (

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