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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Petersburg Officials Lift Restrictions on Conferences but Not on Protests


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Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 23 – Officials in the Northern Capital have lifted all coronavirus restrictions on conferences of various kinds but kept them in place on protests and even individual pickets, the clearest example yet of the ways in which the powers that be in Russia are using the pandemic to restrict freedom (fontanka.ru/2020/09/23/69478531/).

            Newly registered coronavirus infections rose to the highest level since July 13, with 6431 cases registered, bringing the cumulative total to 1,122,241, and newly registered deaths rising to 150, boosting that toll to 19,799 rbc.ru/society/23/09/2020/5f6afa6c9a7947bfe08a21a2and https://t.me/stopcoronavirusrussia/2106).

Among the new dead total was Vakha Agayev, a KPRF Duma deputy (regnum.ru/news/3071989.html).

Despite these numbers, officials continued to insist that the pandemic is not acquiring “a systemic character” and that they have things under control both territorially and by sectors of the economy and society (regnum.ru/news/3071193.html). But schools and other institutions continue to be shuttered because of upsurges (regnum.ru/news/3071491.html, regnum.ru/news/society/3070825.html  and regnum.ru/news/society/3058174.html).

Moreover, restrictions on foreigners and Russians arriving from abroad have been extended to mid-December to prevent the spread of the coronavirus into Russia  (regnum.ru/news/polit/3072013.htmland regnum.ru/news/society/3071982.html).

Both doctors and ordinary Russians are increasingly upset by the situation. Doctors are getting ready to protest the failure of the government to pay them the bonuses they have been promised and especially by officials sleight of hand designed to save the government money in that regard (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/09/23/87202-priemnyy-pokoy).

Russian citizens are increasingly angry at the ways in which the government’s anti-coronavirus programs are leading to a deterioration of healthcare more generally and making it possible for firms to boost the prices of over-the-counter medications (regnum.ru/news/3071432.html, mbk-news.appspot.com/news/lekarstva-v-rossii/ and polit.ru/article/2020/09/23/hiv/).

Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow will soon register a second Russian vaccine, and Russian media stepped up attacks on Western experts who have criticized the way in which the Kremlin has rushed the vaccine to approval without the necessary testing (regnum.ru/news/3071621.html and meduza.io/feature/2020/09/23/rossiyskie-razrabotchiki-vaktsiny-protiv-koronavirusa-nakonets-to-podrobno-otvetili-na-kritiku-zapadnyh-uchenyh-razbiraem-chi-argumenty-ubeditelnee).

Some 60,000 Muscovites have reportedly now signed up to be part of the stage three testing of the first Russian vaccine (regnum.ru/news/3071020.html), and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has said he has complete confidence in the Russian vaccine and will get the shots as soon as they are available (regnum.ru/news/3071045.html).

Until the vaccine is widely available, however, consumer affairs officials say that wearing masks is the best defense against the coronavirus, although other officials caution that not all the masks available work very well (regnum.ru/news/3071171.htmland regnum.ru/news/3071591.html).

Meanwhile, in other pandemic-related developments in Russia today,

·         Eighty-four percent of Russians say that they are now taking measures to protect their health, with 17 percent say they have been ill one way or another since the pandemic started (wciom.ru/index.php?id=236&uid=10559).

·         Even during the pandemic, Russia is very much divided by class and region. Wealthier and better connected Russians can have funerals that are denied to others (newizv.ru/news/society/23-09-2020/zapret-ne-dlya-vseh-kak-v-moskve-horonyat-umershih-ot-koronavirusa), and Moscow has many signs warning about social distance and masks while other Russian regions have few or none (echo.msk.ru/blog/amountain/2713415-echo/).

·         Moscow economist Mikhail Delyagin says that the pandemic shows that the current Russian leadership is prepared to treat them worse than Stalin treated German POWs (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/80276).

Window on Eurasia — New Series