Staunton, March 17 – Since the start of the pandemic, Russians have discussed the ways in which it has changed their lives; but they have devoted less attention to the ways in which it has changed politics in their country. According to Aleksey Shaburov, it has done so in six major and long-term ways (politsovet.ru/69746-kak-koronavirus-za-god-izmenil-rossiyskuyu-politiku.html).
The editor of Yekaterinburg’s Politsovet portal lists them as follows:
1. The pandemic has allowed the government to extend voting in elections and thus make it far more difficult for observers to spot falsifications.
2. The government has adopted more laws but enforced them more selectively thus reducing respect for and observance of all laws, even those not connected with the coronavirus.
3. The pandemic has provided an unanswerable justification for the authorities to ban demonstrations it doesn’t want even though these same powers that be approve public measures by those they do.
4. The coronavirus has shown just how much Russians distrust the powers, not so much in terms of their declared support for Putin and the regime as in terms of their willingness to accept what the regime says and do what it asks as in the case of getting vaccines.
5. The pandemic has isolated the rulers not just from the population but from the government. Those who have to get to the president or prime minister – such as the siloviki – have benefited because others have been excluded from such contacts as health risk threats.
6. Because so many Russians have died from the pandemic, this trend has raised new questions about the price of life in Russia and about whether more or less should be done to save people now and in the future.
Russian health officials reported that they registered 8998 new cases of coronavirus infection and 427 new deaths over the last 24 hours as the pandemic continued to ebb and flow across the Russian Federation (t.me/COVID2019_official/2616 and regnum.ru/news/society/3210111.html).
Many places, including St. Petersburg, report that they are running out of the vaccine and won’t be able to provide shots to all who want them, even though Moscow officials continue to project that most of the country will achieve herd immunity by the fall as a result of the combination of more inoculations and infections (regnum.ru/news/3217915.html and regnum.ru/news/3217948.html).
In response to European requests for access to the Russian vaccine, Moscow officials have suggested that the EU countries first need to end their sanctions on the Russian Federation (regnum.ru/news/polit/3216884.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Officials are urging Russians not to travel abroad during the May holidays lest they contract the virus but are already making plans for foreigners to come to Russia at precisely that time as part of a new campaign for vaccine tourism (regnum.ru/news/3218120.html and regnum.ru/news/3216918.html).
· The Accounting Chamber has documented that Russian medical personnel have not received millions of rubles in supplements the Kremlin promised them for their work in fighting the pandemic (regnum.ru/news/3216918.html).
· Officials in the Northern capital say that 5,000 policemen there and in the adjoining Leningrad Oblast have been infected with the coronavirus, while others report that the pandemic has claimed the lives of 26 staff members of the Hermitage Museum (fontanka.ru/2021/03/17/69816572/regnum.ru/news/3217577.html).