Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Pandemic Changing Russia’s Relations with CIS States

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the relationship between the Russian Federation and the other CIS states, not only because of closed borders, unemployment among immigrant workers and the loss of transfer payments to their native countries, but also because it has highlighted how dependent many of them still are on Moscow.

            Both these trends were highlighted in reports today. On the one hand, an increasing number of Central Asians find themselves without work and without support along the Russian border as they hope to return home but cannot yet enter their homelands (

            And on the other, many of these countries, even if their relations with Moscow have been rocky, have been compelled to seek the assistance of the Russian Federation by asking that Russian doctors and medical equipment to be sent  to them to help fight the pandemic, something the Kremlin has done (

            If the first of these trends has exacerbated problems between them, the second has reinforced the tendency in many of these countries to look to Moscow for help, something many might prefer not to have to do but something that will not be forgotten either, especially as little help has been coming from anywhere else.

            Within the Russian Federation, the government announced that there had been only 5940 new cases of infection, the first time in weeks that that figure has been below 6,000. That brings the total number of coronavirus infections in Russia to 777,486. There were also 85 more deaths, raising  that toll to 12,427 (

            The pandemic continued to hit Russia in various ways. Vladimir Putin agreed to postpone the Immortal Regiment action until next year (, and a KBR doctor was forced to resign after she described how officials had disbanded the infections service to avoid having new cases to report (

            The Baikonur space center has been so hobbled by infections that it has not been able to keep to its schedule of work (, and the Norilsk mayor resigned after it was shown he was concealing the extent of the pandemic there (

            The story that attracted the most ink today was a Bloomberg news agency report that doctors had given members of Moscow’s elite vaccines against the coronavirus last spring even though it hasn’t been released to the general public. The government has denied these reports ( and

            Also today, the defense ministry said it had completed tests of a possible vaccine (, and Russian doctors said that some 50 million Russians would have to be vaccinated eventually to end the pandemic (стопкоронавирус.рф/news/20200720-1200.html).

            In economic news, real disposable incomes of Russians and the number of people employed in that country continued to fall ( and

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

·         Medical experts reported that they had identified 211 mutations in the coronavirus in a survey of 25 regions of Russia and had established that the first cases of the disease came to Russia from Europe rather than China (

·         And a VTsIOM poll found that in sharp contrast to some countries, 75 percent of Russians say they trust what scholars and specialists are telling them about the disease and other issues. Only 16 percent say they do not trust the experts (

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