Staunton, July 15 – The Russian Freedom Committee and the human rights defense group Human Constanta says in a new report as part of its “Pandemic Big Brother” program that Moscow has violated the rights of its citizens far more severely than have governments in other former Soviet republics.
In a 41-page report just released and now available on line together with an interactive map at roskomsvoboda.org/media/2020/07/otchiot-pandemic_big_brother.pdf, the two independent NGOs document the restrictions each of the CIS countries has imposed in order to support that general conclusion (newsru.com/russia/15jul2020/freedom_covid.html).
Where the authorities have imposed the greatest controls, in Moscow, for example, the number of new cases has fallen; but in many other places where controls are more spotty, the declines have not been as great or increases have been reported (echo.msk.ru/blog/covid2019_official/2676733-echo/).
Although Moscow for three weeks now has seen the lowest level of infections since the start of the pandemic, its numbers could go up now that the authorities have organized free testing for all residents who want it as of tomorrow (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/07/15/163031-zhiteli-moskvy-s-16-iyulya-smogut-besplatno-sdat-test-na-koronavirus).
But declines in Moscow which was long the epicenter of the pandemic in Russia have been largely made up by increases elsewhere: Today, officials reported 6422 new cases of infection, bringing that total to 746,369, and the number of new coronavirus deaths at 156 over the last 24 hours bringing that total to 11,770 (t.me/COVID2019_official/1044).
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says the peak of the pandemic in Russia has passed, and other officials say that approximately 26 percent of all Russians now have immunity (vedomosti.ru/society/articles/2020/07/15/834641-mishustin-zayavil-o-prohozhdenii-pika-covid-19).
But in another measure of how hard the pandemic has hit Russia, the government’s obligatory medical insurance program reported that it has spent 40 billion rubles (800 million US dollars) on treating those who have become infected with the coronavirus (kommersant.ru/doc/4417164).
In the race of a vaccine, Novosibirsk scholars say they have isolated antibodies to the virus, a major step toward developing both treatments and vaccines (lenta.ru/news/2020/07/15/antibody/) and a major challenge because Russian experts have now identified some 100 strains of the disease (lenta.ru/news/2020/07/15/explanation/).
Russian scientists have developed and officials have installed in airports and railway stations special equipment that looks for high levels of concentration of the virus in the air so that managers can shut down particular locations if the numbers become too high (ritmeurasia.org/news--2020-07-15--covid-vakcina.-fakty-domysly-perspektivy-49949).
Again today new openings and closings were reported. The Russian prison system is again allowing visitors (ria.ru/20200715/1574371190.html), and marriage registration offices are open without appointment (https://echo.msk.ru/blog/covid2019_official/2676735-echo/ Fitness clubs have been allowed to reopen but many are projected to go out of business (vedomosti.ru/business/articles/2020/07/15/834585-industriya-fitnesa).
The March of the Immortal Regiment, originally scheduled for May 9 and then delayed to July 26 has been delayed again, this time to September 2 because of epidemiological conditions (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2020/07/14/834578-shestvie-bessmertnogo-polka-budet-snova-otlozheno).
Economic news continued to be bad. Russian demands for credit have returned to pre-pandemic levels but the money is now more often being used for short term needs rather than durable goods (rbc.ru/finances/15/07/2020/5f0de5dc9a7947b4d433e522?from=column_2), no surprise since incomes have fallen.
In addition, a third of Russians say they fear being fired in the near future (newizv.ru/news/society/15-07-2020/tret-rabotayuschih-rossiyan-zayavili-o-riske-skorogo-uvolneniya), and they face rising gas prices even though wholesale gas prices have declined (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78226).
Reports are coming in about problems in the agricultural sector, with grain harvest less than projected, fruits and vegetables in short supply and the price of sugar going up (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78207krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/78224).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related news from Russia today,
· Russians are upset that the government has allowed the only factory in Russia producing one vitally important medicine to go bankrupt and stop operations (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/07/15/86278-kakoe-im-delo-do-vashey-zhizni).
· The pandemic has reduced the amount of internal migration in Russia for the first time in five years (rbc.ru/economics/15/07/2020/5f0c60359a794763d6c03073?from=column_1).
· Immigrant workers from Central Asia sent home 25 percent more money in May and June than they had in April and May. The totals are still far below pre-pandemic levels but the increases have helped the economies in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (stanradar.com/news/full/40401-vzlet-posle-padenija-denezhnye-perevody-migrantov-iz-rossii-rezko-vyrosli.html).
· Like people in other countries, Russians are finding ways to say thanks to medical professionals. One way residents of the Russian Federation are doing so is painting murals about them on buildings in major cities (themoscowtimes.com/2020/07/15/russia-pays-tribute-to-coronavirus-doctors-with-murals-a70876).