Staunton, November 25 – Many expected that Moscow’s decision to make the regions responsible for coping with the pandemic would give them more power to make decisions, but things have not worked out that way. Instead, because these were unfunded mandates, all regions including the better off ones now find themselves more in debt to and dependent on Moscow.
That is the perhaps unexpected conclusion of Aleksandr Zadorozhny, a Znak journalist, who documents it with budgetary figures showing the regions now find themselves in a much worse off situation relative to the center than they were a year ago (znak.com/2020-11-25/kak_izmenilis_otnosheniya_federalnyh_vlastey_s_regionami_iz_za_koronavirusa).
Today, for the first time in the pandemic, Russian officials registered more than 500 deaths from the coronavirus (507); they also reported 23,675 new cases of infection, bringing these twin tolls to 2,162,503 and 37,538 (novayagazeta.ru/news/2020/11/25/165971-koronavirus).
The pandemic continues to spread, but the Kremlin is avoiding calls for a new lockdown, lest its excessive optimism earlier be shown to have been misplaced. Instead, various regions and sectors are clamping down even harder than they did in the spring (regnum.ru/news/society/3122025.html and profile.ru/economy/poslednij-rubezh-pochemu-rossijskie-vlasti-boyatsya-lokdauna-bolshe-chem-samoj-pandemii-435226/).
Thirty percent of all school pupils are now either on holiday or being given their lessons via the Internet. The education ministry has announced that it has created an education web to help them (regnum.ru/news/3124751.html and regnum.ru/news/3124763.html). New calls to close Russia’s borders are being rejected by officials (regnum.ru/news/3124267.html).
Epidemiologists say that the failure of Russians to wear masks and practice social distancing explains most of the recent rise in the number of infections (regnum.ru/news/3124240.html). In Moscow, police are reportedly stepping up their fines of those who don’t follow the rules (https://forum-msk.org/material/news/16835712.html).
And today as always brought more horror stories about the situation in regions beyond the ring road (e.g., themoscowtimes.com/2020/11/26/siberian-coronavirus-patients-hospitalized-in-dilapidated-ward-a72155 and capost.media/news/obshchestvo/naibolshiy-defitsit-lekarstv-ot-koronavirusa-otmechen-v-ingushetii-kchr-i-chechne/).
Moscow economists said that Russia’s GDP decline will likely be much worse than has been estimated (regnum.ru/news/3124888.html), with the informal sector being hit far harder than the regular economy (regnum.ru/news/3124572.html). Looking forward, about half of company heads in Russia don’t plan to completely shift from in-person operations (regnum.ru/news/3124378.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia,
· The Kremlin said that it was concerned about rising pessimism about the consequences of the pandemic (https://regnum.ru/news/3124794.html).
· The Kremlin added that it has developed sufficient epidemiological defenses to allow Vladimir Putin to travel about the country at will (regnum.ru/news/3124728.html).
· Ever more doctors warned that Russians will be wearing masks throughout 2021 even with the appearance of the vaccine (kp.ru/daily/21712092/4327853/).
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