Staunton, June 17 – Confronted by a 30 percent rise in infections in the last week and overwhelming opposition in the population to mandatory vaccinations, the Kremlin straddled the fence in an effort to avoid being blamed for doing what it clearly wants lower-level officials to do (tass.ru/obschestvo/11680287 and regnum.ru/news/3298883.html).
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated his boss’s refrain that vaccinations will remain voluntary but then said that the Kremlin backs the actions of regions which have made them mandatory. Other Moscow officials echoed the latter position (regnum.ru/news/3299012.html, regnum.ru/news/3298699.html and mbk-news.appspot.com/news/glava-na-regiony/).
In addition to the Kremlin’s obvious desire to distance itself from an unpopular change in position, the Russian leadership is promoting the idea that if vaccination rates don’t increase, more serious restrictions, including a new lockdown, may be necessary. Even those opposed to the shots are even more opposed to a lockdown (finanz.ru/novosti/aktsii/v-moskve-zadumali-lokdaun-dlya-nevakcinirovannykh-1030532458).
Moreover, the leaders of many regions have concluded that they will fail to meet Putin’s target of 60 percent immunization by the fall if they don’t make the shots obligatory now and in that event be at risk of being fired (sobkorr.org/news/60CAD5B1D5B73.html, ura.news/articles/1036282494 and ura.news/articles/1036282489).
Today, Russian officials reported registering 14,057 new cases of infection and 416 new deaths from the coronavirus over the last 24 hours, with Moscow and Moscow oblast having more than half of these new infections, something officials there said was surprising given that an estimated 60 percent of the population has at some immunity (t.me/COVID2019_official/3079and kp.ru/online/news/4332700/
On the vaccine front, most experts favor moving toward compulsory vaccination, although there are dissenters including in businesses which are being forced into the unwelcome position of enforcers, insisting on vaccinations and pushed to furlough or even fire those who have not gotten their shots (regnum.ru/news/3299002.htmlregnum.ru/news/3299269.html).
But most officials and many Russians remain opposed to mandatory shots, arguing either that such a step won’t work or that it is a violation of freedom of choice and of the promises Putin has made (regnum.ru/news/3299042.html).
Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,
· Moscow is on the brink of introducing something it rejected earlier: special zones in restaurants for those who have been vaccinated (regnum.ru/news/3299411.html).
· Making vaccine mandatory driving up black market for fake certificates that one has received the shots (regnum.ru/news/3299134.html).
· Russia says it will offer booster shots to those in other countries who have already received the Sputnik-5 medication. The booster will protect them against the Delta strain first identified in India (twitter.com/sputnikvaccine/status/1405492387510636546).
· Russian investigators are backing away from their consistent opposition to the idea that Chinese researchers developed the coronavirus in a laboratory. The investigators say there is evidence in the genetic code of the virus that suggests some human intervention (newizv.ru/news/science/17-06-2021/v-strukture-virusa-vozbuditelya-covid-19-uchenye-obnaruzhili-sledy-eksperimentirovaniya).