Staunton, June 24 – In his Victory Day speech, Vladimir Putin claimed victory not only over Hitler’s Germany, something that really happened, but also over the coronavirus pandemic, something that has not happened. But he clearly hopes that Russians will accept his rosy view at least through July 1 when the referendum occurs on his constitutional amendments.
Many are skeptical about Putin’s second claim and his expectations that Russians will accept his words as true. Anatoly Baranov says that at best, “Putin ‘has defeated’ for a minimum of a week,” but quite likely not for longer than that given the continuing growth in the number of infections and deaths in Russia (forum-msk.org/material/news/16534051.html).
The parade in Moscow was subdued with far fewer and much lower status leaders in attendance than Putin had hoped for, a smaller crowd because of fears about the virus he says has been defeated, and the fact that many Muscovites, on the advice of their own officials, continue to wear masks to protect themselves (dailystorm.ru/obschestvo/s-maskoy-napereves-kak-v-moskve-vstretili-parad-pobedy-24-iyunya).
At least the Moscow parade took place. In all but 25 other cases in the Russian Federation (plus three in Russian-occupied Crimea), parades either were never scheduled, were cancelled or were organized to occur without any spectators (znak.com/2020-06-24/parady_pobedy_iz_za_covid_19_otmeneny_ili_proydut_bez_zriteley_v_35_regionah_rossii and kavkazr.com/a/30688521.html).
The government’s own figures about new cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours belied Putin’s words too. There were 7176 new cases of infection, pushing the cumulative total over 600,000 to 606,881; and the new of deaths was 154, raising that total to 8513 (t.me/COVID2019_official/874).
Many people are convinced that these figures in fact continue to understate Russia’s losses. In addition to scholarly studies, groups like Patient Monitor in Ingushetia are conducting online surveys asking people to report the details of cases they know about (fortanga.org/2020/06/opros-skolko-lyudej-na-samom-dele-umerlo-ot-koronavirusa/).
As the pandemic continued, there were both new spikes and new moves to open up the economy. Outbreaks were reported in Khantty-Mansiisk courts (znak.com/2020-06-24/v_yugre_srazu_neskolko_sudey_zarazilis_koronavirusom_odnogo_podklyuchili_k_apparatu_ivl and in hospitals in the Altay Kray (tass.ru/sibir-news/8804613).
Moscow, however, continues to open up (https://meduza.io/feature/2020/06/24/vo-vsem-vinovat-sobyanin); and Putin is counting on the fact that most foreign journalists and diplomats are located there rather than anywhere else in Russia to ensure that what happens in Moscow will shape their image and that of their readers and viewers as to what is happening in Russia.
Economic news was almost uniformly bad despite the holiday. The IMF increased its projection of the likely decline of Russia’s GDP for the year to minus-6.6 percent (vedomosti.ru/economics/articles/2020/06/24/833285-mvf). Russian economists said that a second wave may lead to devaluation and restrict recovery (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/77574 and
But perhaps the most disturbing conclusion was offered by Moscow economist Igor Nikolayev who says that the latest data show that with the lifting of the quarantine in Russian cities, the decline of the Russian economy has not eased but accelerated (echo.msk.ru/blog/nikolaev_i/2664791-echo/).
The pandemic is beginning to have some political consequences. Moscow May Sergey Sobyanin is said to be in trouble because of the unpopularity of his restrictions (meduza.io/feature/2020/06/24/vo-vsem-vinovat-sobyanin). Officials are saying that referendum voting next week will be safe and appear to be taking some measures that could lead to falsifications
(znak.com/2020-06-24/letuchaya_snyala_agitacionnyy_rolik_s_pamfilovoy_i_popovoy_o_bezopasnosti_golosovaniya and znak.com/2020-06-24/ekspert_v_moskve_na_onlayn_golosovanie_po_konstitucii_zapisalos_anomalnoe_chislo_grazhdan).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related news from Russia today,
· The authorities have made it “practically impossible” for anyone to visit the Solovki monastery, arguing that they have had to do so to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (thebarentsobserver.com/en/travel/2020/06/solovki-closed-visitors).
· Scholars are warning that any vaccine that is developed may be dangerous for elderly people who will be advised or prohibited from getting it and thus will remain at risk of infection (newizv.ru/news/science/24-06-2020/uchenye-vaktsina-ot-kovida-mozhet-byt-opasna-dlya-pozhilyh-lyudey).
· A new survey shows that isolation measures the Russian government imposed to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus did not lead to a spark in pregnancies but rather to decisions by potential parents that now is not the time to bring new children into the world (facebook.com/ppryanikov/posts/3288170221228014).
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