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Moscow’s Priorities During COVID-19: International Prestige Over Safety Of Its Citizens

Russia, along with the entire planet, is still gripped by COVID-19. While in some countries the number of those infected has begun gradually decreasing (for instance, Germany1 and Spain2), in Russia the crisis is only in its infant stage and the number of cases continues to rise. Newest forecasts suggest that Russia could become the next epicenter of the pandemic.

On Monday, the number of cases in Moscow grew by 2,500, reaching a total of 18,000. Even though official data shows that at least 2/3 of the infected are in Moscow, it is legitimately suspected that the new coronavirus has also spread to Russia’s regions, where there are not sufficient tests to identify all of the cases of the infection. With the situation becoming worse, it is evident that Russia could any time soon be faced with a collapsing healthcare system.

This is gradually being understood by Moscow’s and regional executive powers, who are now seriously worried about the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Kremlin, however, is treating this issue as always – it is nothing too important, and the pandemic is basically used for reaching Russia’s geopolitical goals and enhancing its international prestige.

As a result, the Kremlin spent the last week providing humanitarian aid to numerous countries around the world. For example, over the course of the last two weeks the Kremlin’s propaganda media outlets were delighted to report that Russia has sent humanitarian aid cargos to Italy4, Serbia5, Armenia6, Venezuela7, Belarus8 and even the US9. I should note that the latter later clarified that it had bought humanitarian aid from Russia, but this didn’t stop the Kremlin’s propaganda mouthpieces from presenting it as the gracious Russia helping the nearly collapsed superpower10.

Russian propaganda attempts to further Moscow’s geopolitical position during the pandemic were made even more absurd by the dramatic situation inside the country. Opposition media and social networks increasingly often feature worried opinion concerning the bad situation in Russia’s healthcare and its utter unpreparedness to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data gathered by the newspaper Vedomosti suggests that only 9% of those interviewed feel positively about the country’s healthcare system, while almost a half of Russians believe it is not ready to fight the coronavirus. These sentiments are more than understandable after looking at statistical information on healthcare in Russia.

For example, during 2013-2019 the number of junior medical staff in hospitals in Russia fell 2.6 times. The number of medium-level personnel decreased by 9%, while the number of doctors decreased by 2%. Even more, from 1990 to 2019 the number of Russian infectious disease specialists fell dramatically – from 149 thousand to 59 thousand. Similarly, since 1990 the number of hospital wards intended for those suffering from infectious diseases has also decreased. The situation is made even more grave by the fact that the mentioned numbers have resulted in worse death rates for patients with infectious diseases. If in 1990 the death rate among such patients was 0.35%, then in 2018 this climbed up to 0.82%.11

One of the most crucial issues during the pandemic is the lack of protective equipment available to medical staff. Doctors in Russia critically lack protective suits, and this could lead to medical workers becoming victims and carriers of the virus.

The newspaper Novaya Gazeta wrote that in order to work with infected patients doctors in Russia (also in Moscow) are given the most basic protective masks, which are often paid for by the medical workers themselves. The lack of funds in several hospitals has led to such an absurd situation that doctors are being forced to wear diapers bought with their own money – to decrease the frequency of toilet visits.12

It is also worth noting that the Russian regime wouldn’t be the Russian regime if it didn’t punish doctors who choose to openly speak about the problems in Russia’s healthcare system. For example, the union of medical workers Alians Vrachey (The Alliance of Doctors) that tried to collect donations in support of medical workers was faced with pressure from the authorities. As a result, head of the organization Anastasiya Vasilyeva was summoned to the Russian Investigative Committee on the grounds of allegedly spreading false information regarding COVID-19. Briefly after, activists from the same organization were detained in Novgorod Oblast just as they were delivering the donated protective equipment to doctors at a hospital in the town of Okulovka.

The most objective way of looking at the situation in the healthcare system of Russia is to see a video from Pskov Oblast where the governor and some officials are seen visiting a hospital that treats COVID-19 patients. During the visit, the delegation was wearing full-body protective suits, while the doctors had to suffice with just white robes and surgical masks.13

Despite the obvious problems within Russia, the Kremlin has once again decided to keep silent and focus on other countries by delivering generous humanitarian aid packages to allies and enemies alike in order to gain their trust. It is more than clear that over the course of the next couple of weeks the COVID-19 crisis in Russia will become so severe that even the Kremlin will not be able to keep its eyes shut any longer. Let’s hope that next time the masters in Moscow will at least have enough sense to deliver humanitarian aid to doctors in Okulovka, not its allies in Venezuela or Serbia.

*Jānis Mākoņkalns is an independent journalist

1https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/covid-19-more-recovered-in-germany-than-still-infected/1801865

2http://www.rfi.fr/en/international/20200413-coronavirus

3https://abcnews.go.com/International/russias-coronavirus-cases-expected-soar/story?id=70116133

4https://vz.ru/society/2020/3/24/1030372.html

5https://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=3254000

6https://eurasia.expert/smi-raskryli-kak-rossiya-pomozhet-armenii-v-borbe-s-koronavirusom/

7https://www.pravda.ru/news/world/1487441-venezuela_russia/

8https://ria.ru/20200409/1569811221.html

9https://lv.sputniknews.ru/Russia/20200401/13483991/Rossiya-pomogaet-SShA-v-borbe-s-koronavirusom-Putin-i-Tramp-dogovorilis.html

10https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/04/02/who-paid-for-russias-coronavirus-aid-to-the-us-a69839

11https://www.vedomosti.ru/society/articles/2020/04/09/827471-gotovo-rossiiskoe

12https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/04/01/84650-edinstvennoe-chto-est-maska

13https://medialeaks.ru/news/0804lns-kozochki-belye/

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Olivia Kroth
April 24, 2020

A very biased text, written by a Latvian! We know that some Latvians are rabid Russia haters.

Janis Makonkalns seems to be one of them. His Latvian name means “cloudy mountain”. Russia clouded or shrouded in clouds?

The little dwarf, the failed mini-state of Latvia is not big enough to see the clouds hanging over Russia. How about dealing with your own affairs and leave Russia in peace?

romar
romar
Reply to  Olivia Kroth
April 25, 2020

Biased? Outright idiotic. Doctors in diapers? Ha!

Olivia Kroth
Reply to  romar
April 25, 2020

Yes, one could call the text or rather the writer “idiotic”. I did not want to be so direct but I agree.

BobValdez
BobValdez
April 24, 2020

Moron.

TravelAbout
TravelAbout
April 24, 2020

Well at least The Duran is showing equal opportunity here on its site. They have more than their share of Sinophobia articles now are they looking to equal that out with Russiaphobia articles. This particular idiot is wearing both hats today.

Ray Joseph Cormier
April 24, 2020

Reading this left me with the impression the writer has eaten too many sour grapes.

Platon
Platon
Reply to  Ray Joseph Cormier
April 25, 2020

Be nice to Baltic Nazis. They keep betraying the wrong team, always.
You would be sore too.

Clarity
Clarity
April 24, 2020

Countries send doctors to other countries in order gain valuable experience BEFORE the situation becomes critical at home.

Why is The Duran publishing an author who compares the present to the “Russia” of 1990?
[Hint 1990 = Soviet Union]

Did the author realize that with all the decreases, so did the size of the country and population?

I couldn’t make it past that.

Overall verdict: FAIL!

Clarity
Clarity
April 24, 2020

Articles like this need more down votes, perhaps someone at The Duran might start to pay attention that crap is being publish.

Gosh why am I still here!
[the audacity of hope…]

Platon
Platon
Reply to  Clarity
April 25, 2020

Or the capacity of dope.

Platon
Platon
April 25, 2020

I smell a rather large rat here. Anastasija Vasiljeva was, I believe, outed as a very firmly rooted fifth columnist and an ally of the moribund Navalny faction and the attempt to deliver masks, illegally, in a quarantine zone, with full NATO camera crew in tow, was actually a provocation for consumption by the Western Russophobic press, which means just about all of it. Apparently, at the time, the authorities did not provide the desired show. I suggest that Janis take a page out of the book of, allow me to not be coy: Cunt Riot – the Soros-backed ‘musicians’… Read more »

Valeria Nollan
Valeria Nollan
April 25, 2020

This article cites at its center an incident that was thoroughly debunked and discredited in a piece in RT. I do not have the link at hand, but the incident in Novgorod clearly was a publicity stunt by Anastasia Vasilyeva (who is supported by pro-West forces).

Valeria Nollan
Valeria Nollan
April 25, 2020

A quick search on RT using the name Anastasia Vasilyeva will bring up the article I referred to in my previous post right away. She is connected to Western media and the few supporters of Navalny. The RT article is worth reading.

Michael Fogarty
Michael Fogarty
April 25, 2020

What a load of rubbish
The difference between Russia and the rest of the world is they opted not to Be induced in this false fear. They are treating it as should be. Sensibly.

T S
T S
April 25, 2020

Ah, but where dis these ‘medical donations’ come from and are they really clean? Russian authorities are well aware of what dangers there are and are now increasing the necessary medical equipment and using a quarantine to ‘buy time’. Short on the list is a good supply of gin and tonic..

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