Staunton, December 16 – One of the ways in which Moscow has sought to avoid responsibility for handling the coronavirus is its “pseudo-federal” approach, Andrey Degtyarov says. Russian officials at the center make various recommendations, and then the heads of federal subjects “compete with each other” to make them obligatory.
Thus, for example, the regionalist writer points out, Moscow recommends Russians wear masks; but regional officials are imposing administrative and criminal penalties for those who don’t, thus allowing the center to shift popular anger away from itself toward regional officials (region.expert/2wave/).
Regional officials have also forced pupils to go to distance learning even as Moscow continues to insist that it is against that and required that elderly people remain in their homes and not use public transport even when at most those in Moscow say these are mere recommendations, Degtyarov continues.
That is happening because even as it avoids responsibility itself, Moscow holds officials in the regions responsible for the levels of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths; and so officials at the level of federal subjects know they won’t be punished if they are harsh but will suffer if the pandemic is able to flourish.
But the governors are also being evaluated in terms of how the economy is doing in their regions and thus pushed in a different direction. In order to avoid having the economy deteriorate even more, some governors are in fact relaxing restrictions lest business be negatively affected and their own careers shortened.
And the governors in this situation have a third task: they must ensure that their ratings in no case rise higher than that of the president. Thus, they must and do talk about the successes of the center, especially with regard to vaccines, and minimize any stories in the media about their own achievements.
Increasingly, Degtyarov says, Russians beyond the ring road can see what is going on; and the “silently indifferent accord” that the population had earlier given to the Putin regime and its representatives in the regions and republics is falling apart. As a result, propaganda is ever less effective; and Moscow now has “only naked force” to hold things today
He argues that as a result of the false federalism that Moscow has used to avoid responsibility, “’deep Russia’” has been set in motion and a serious clash between it and the imperial center appears to be only a matter of time given that the Russian people increasingly aren’t enthusiastic about “’the new normal’” that the Kremlin has sought during the pandemic.