It took Vladimir Putin just under 20 minutes to make a U-turn. Slightly leaning back at his desk, Russian President addressed his nation in a television speech on Wednesday. Putin warned citizens not to underestimate the corona virus: “Don’t think it doesn’t concern me. It can affect any of us.” And: “Show discipline – stay at home.”
Putin warns of scenarios like those in Europe
From Monday he sends the Russians on vacation for a week, with continued wages. Does a week’s vacation really do anything to reduce the spread of the virus?
Russia’s leadership had long pretended that the Corona problem was primarily a “foreign” one. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin closed the Chinese border early on. While around Russia – in the east in Asia, in the west in the EU countries the number of infected people rose rapidly, thousands died, the Russian authorities have so far reported only a few hundred infected people and for a long time no deaths. This made many people believe in certainty, but also increased distrust.
Now Putin is turning, but only half-heartedly.
On Thursday verThe Russian authorities reported 182 new corona cases – more than ever before. There are now 840 in total. Two dead were also sued for the first time.
In his speech, Putin warned of scenarios like those in Europe. But he never used words like “quarantine”, “self-isolation” or “social distance”, which is just as important, as Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Corona Coordinator for all of Russia, made clear.
He is the manager of this crisis: While Putin remained general, Sobyanin announced further concrete steps that are likely to serve as a model for the other regions: in the 15 million metropolis Moscow, parks, cafés and restaurants are also closed during the holiday week.
Putin’s vote on constitutional coup postponed
Putin will find it particularly difficult to postpone the referendum on the constitutional changes, which are actually scheduled for April 22. These allow him to remain president for two more terms – a breach of the constitution that Putin wants the Russians to approve, even if the vote is not legally binding. “All citizens now need to reduce the risks as much as possible,” said Putin. Health is a priority.
He postponed the vote to a “later date”, which he did not specify, which is also a sign that the situation is serious. The President did not comment on the parade on May 9, marking the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany – the second important date for Putin this year. The Ministry of Defense had announced that security measures would be taken so that the parade could take place, even without an audience.
In his speech, Putin’s main aim was to demonstrate how he wanted to protect Russia’s already troubled economy – the ruble had recently fallen sharply, also because Russia is currently fighting a price war on the oil market – from damage. This is one of the reasons why he has been reluctant to take harsher steps, such as imposing a state of emergency.
Instead, the president announced support measures, including:
The Sick pay must not be lower than the minimum wage, which is 12,130 rubles per month, about 140 euros.
That too Unemployment benefit is raised to the level of the minimum wage (so far it is in many cases only 8000 rubles, around 95 euros).
Six months Deferment of tax the state grants small and medium-sized enterprises.
Moscow offers low-liquid companies State guarantees.
Russia mobilizes its army to fight Corona
Putin had made the Corona crisis a top priority on Tuesday – pictures showed him in Kommunarka hospital in the north of Moscow, where Corona patients are treated. However, Putin visited the patients in the yellow special protective suit and black protective mask, while doctors and attendants accompanied him in simpler white suits and masks.
Russia mobilized its army in the fight against Corona, Putin had instructed medical special forces to exercise, the Ministry of Defense said. The government announced that it would stop all international flights on Thursday night.
Doctors often only talk anonymously about the conditions in the hospitals – but not Anastasija Wassiljewa, the chairwoman of the “Alliance of Doctors” union, which is linked to the opposition politician Alexei Navalny. It speaks sharply on social media. “An outbreak of the new corona virus is raging all over the world. But in Russia there is an outbreak of pneumonia,” she writes. Not only are protective clothing and respirators missing, but honest information is also lacking. The number of corona patients is much higher.
Meanwhile, Vasilyeva has been visited by the criminal police “to silence our union,” as she is on twitter wrote.
The visit came after the investigative committee, which reports directly to the president, initiated legislative changes. Thereafter, the distribution of alleged false news may fall under criminal law. So far, the spread of “fake news” or information that the Russian authorities classify as such has been punished as a fine.
The media are already affected, which Reporters Without Borders criticizes as “absolutely counterproductive”. The independent website “Goworit Magadan” faces a fine of 200,000 to 500,000 rubles, the equivalent of around 2,400 to 5,900 euros – a multiple of their monthly advertising revenue.
The medium had reported: “A patient suspected of having a corona infection died in the hospital in the Magadan region”. For the media regulator, this is “fake news”. “Goworit Magadan” rejects this, reports have been made with reference to sources in the hospital and Ministry of Health.
To date, there is officially no infected person in the region.
Assistance: Alexander Chernyshev