Staunton, June 19 – As part of the Kremlin’s get out the vote campaign for the July 1 referendum, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, says that “taking part in voting on the amendments to the constitution from an epidemiological point of view is no more dangerous than going to a store” (vestikavkaza.ru/news/dmitrij-peskov-ucastie-v-golosovanii-po-konstitucii-ne-opasnee-pohoda-v-magazin.html).
Some may doubt that going to a store is all that safe, but anyone who questions voting because of the pandemic faces problems. The chief specialist on infectious diseases in Oryol Oblast says he expects a spike in coronavirus cases after the vote (newsorel.ru/fn_573534.html). He is now being investigated for that (newtimes.ru/news/detail/195409).
Vladimir Putin for his part said that the epidemic is retreating and that remaining hotspots in the regions can be put down if officials there copy Moscow’s approach, without mentioning that they do not have Moscow’s resources (ria.ru/20200620/1573231780.html). The fight continues but the economy is coming back, he added (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/63541).
The numbers at least confirm that. According to the official count, 161 more people died bringing that total over 8,000 to 8002, while the number of new cases registered over the past 24 hours increased by 7889 to 576,951 (t.me/stopcoronavirusrussia/1089). Officials added that 16 million Russians have now been tested for the virus (vestikavkaza.ru/news/v-rossii-proveli-uze-svyse-16-mln-testov-na-koronavirus.html).
The defense ministry says that 5478 uniformed personnel have been infected (vestikavkaza.ru/news/bolee-54-tys-voennosluzasih-rf-vylecilis-ot-koronavirusa.html), and penal officials in the two capitals say that the virus is now spreading rapidly in the preliminary detention centers there (kommersant.ru/doc/4388528 and spbmbk.media/suzhet/v-peterburge-v-lechenii/).
One major problem with Russian statistics is that in many places the registration offices which record deaths have been closed in many places. They are now scheduled to begin reopening and they may do a better job of reporting deaths than others have (vestikavkaza.ru/news/s-23-iuna-v-zagsah-moskvy-vozobnovatsa-torzestvennye-registracii-brakov.html).
But however that may be, Russian officials have decided that the best way to deal with those who question their statistics is to impose fines on media outlets that carry their arguments, sending a chilling message to any that might do so in the future (mbk-news.appspot.com/news/oshtrafoval-exo/).
In an indication that the pandemic isn’t over in Moscow, the city’s mayor has called for extending working at home arrangements for as much as a month or two more (mbk-news.appspot.com/news/sobyanin-zayavi/). Officials also say that cultural life in Moscow will resume only next year (vestikavkaza.ru/news/svydkoj-kulturnaa-zizn-vosstanovitsa-vesnoj-sleduusego-goda.html).
But the Motherland Calls statue will reopen on June 24, the day of Putin’s Victory parade (vestikavkaza.ru/news/monument-rodina-mat-torzestvenno-otkroetsa-24-iuna.html), and all federal museums are slated to reopen before July 16 (vestikavkaza.ru/news/do-16-iula-dolzny-otkrytsa-vse-federalnye-muzei.html).
As far as the economy is concerned, official unemployment rose to 4.5 million in May, the highest level in eight years and only a small fraction of those who don’t have work but can’t gain registration with the authorities and thus assistance (rbc.ru/economics/19/06/2020/5eecd9db9a7947e77b3bc058?from=newsfeed).
Ninety percent of Russia’s 3,000 shopping malls remain closed (vestikavkaza.ru/news/v-rossii-otkrylis-tolko-10-vseh-torgovyh-centrov.html); and since March 1, more than stores on Moscow’s major streets have closed down, possibly forever (echo.msk.ru/news/2663169-echo.html). And economists are predicting both more inflation and more bankruptcies (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/77466and krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/77439).
The Russian government’s anti-pandemic efforts did have a positive consequence in an unusual way today. Communications ministry spokesmen announced that their agency would not be conducting another test on isolating the Russian segment of the Internet because of the virus (interfax.ru/russia/713957).