Criticism of Putin's crisis management

Russian authorities have reacted angrily to media reports that Russia's comparatively low Covid-19 mortality rate was the result of skewed numbers. Now, official data appears to support the criticism, but it remains unclear whether the numbers were deliberately manipulated or simply the result of careless recording. What to make of the affair?

Open/close all quotes
Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Edifice of lies collapsing

Kirill Martynov, political editor of Novaya Gazeta, sees Russia facing a crisis of confidence in a Facebook post republished by Echo of Moscow:

“First the state lied by hiding the true extent of what was happening from the people, from itself and from the outside world. When the extent of the falsification became obvious the state continued to tell lies, destroying the last remains of trust it still enjoyed in society. ... The social, medical and economic crisis is hitting Russia hard, but the main drama is playing out in the ethical sphere: the state treats its citizens as a 'population', as biomass. ... The moral decline of the state, the lies, the senseless violence and bureaucratic insanity are leading to the disintegration of society: if the state treats us like this, why should I behave any better? individuals ask themselves.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Kremlin boss risks losing face and power

The Russian president has weakened his grip on power, The Guardian comments:

“Putin's decision to shield himself from harm, isolating away from Moscow, has badly dented his image as fearless tough-guy leader. After weeks of complacency at the top, Russia finds itself with the second fastest rate of Covid-19 infections in the world. ... Anxious to avoid personal blame for twin health and economic disasters, Putin has shifted responsibility for managing the crisis to the regions, which have effectively been left to fend for themselves. Wealthy businessmen - the so-called oligarchs - have stepped into the breach. In such ways does a leader's power erode and slip away.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Russia doing fine even with unreported cases

Ria Novosti criticises media reports and concludes after various statistical considerations that

“in addition to Russia, the ratio of deaths to cases of infection is also very low in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey. What's more, even if you accept the thesis put out by the New York Times and Financial Times that the coronavirus mortality rate in Russia is '70 percent higher than the official figure,' it would still be many times lower than in the US, not to mention in Southern Europe and Britain.” (RU) /

Gloves instead of handouts

Moscow opposition local politician Ilya Yashin criticises the lifting of the restrictions in a Facebook post published by

“Usually a quarantine is only lifted once an epidemic subsides. ... But seen from Putin's point of view the logic becomes clear: people have been locked up at home for a month and a half and most of them have run out of money. If you want to extend the restrictions, you have to start distributing money so that they can at least buy something to eat. But Putin has apparently made a fundamental decision: there will be no handouts. So the only alternative is to lift the restrictions despite the epidemic. You have no money? Then go to work. You're afraid of getting sick? Put on a mask and gloves.”

Kyiv Post (UA) /

Kremlin abdicating responsiblity

In the fight against coronavirus Putin is all too ready to evade responsibility, writes Mark Galeotti of the UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies in Kyiv Post:

“Putin is clearly eager to avoid being identified with the pandemic and the difficult measures being adopted to fight it. Despite having created a highly centralized political system, he is not going to be the commander-in-chief of this war. Instead, he would rather force local leaders to take the tough decisions, demanding they both save lives and save the economy. ... The governors will do their best, but there is clearly no consensus as to what that means.”

MBK media (RU) /

In hiding like Stalin at the start of the war

Putin's disappearance from the public eye will make a huge dent in his popularity, MBK Media believes:

“Putin is clearly showing that he doesn't want to be associated publicly with unpleasant matters or be a cause of concern. More and more he's becoming a 'fine-weather president'. This is very reminiscent of Stalin in the first days of World War II, when he retreated to a remote dacha and waited to see which way the wind would blow. It's no coincidence that rumours are circulating online that Putin has gone into hiding either at Lake Seliger or in Valday. He'll be back, of course. He'll get a grip on himself and give everyone else a good shaking up. But this week-long silence will not be forgotten. ”

NV (UA) /

Where is Vladimir?

The online portal is astonished to see who is appearing in public in these times of emergency decrees:

“Putin declared that Russians would have the next week off work, but he didn't declare an emergency or an exceptional situation. After that the authorities of Moscow City and Region called for 'self-isolation' in decrees of their own. Then the police announced via loudspeaker that a curfew had been imposed in Moscow. And then, on the night of March 30, Dmitry Medvedev (?!) appeared on Facebook. ... That's strange, because according to Russian law first Putin would have to proclaim a state of emergency, which must then be approved by the Federation Council. ... But there's a small problem: Vladimir Putin can't declare a state of emergency because he's disappeared. ... He hasn't appeared in public for four days.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Oil is the problem, not the virus

In a Facebook post published by Echo of Moscow rock musician Andrei Makarevich predicts that the Russian leadership will exploit the pandemic to the full:

“I can already see how in the near future all our troubles will be blamed on the coronavirus. And yet we are far from being the country worst affected by it. But has the currency in the affected countries also lost a third of its value, or was it just ours? ... The weak voices of intelligent eggheads had repeatedly appealed to our sun king: don't build the life and prosperity of this great country on oil alone! ... The people up on high don't care how you live. They're not reduced to poverty. They're just worried that you'll lose your patience. But it seems the patience of the Russian people is endless.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Balancing on the razor's edge

Writing in Ria Novosti, pediatrician and medical official Leonid Roschal appeals to the Russians to remain calm and maintain a sense of proportion:

“Drugs to control this infection are not yet available. It will lose its aggressiveness of its own accord, and this weakening is also enhanced by the growing immunity of those who are only mildly affected. There will also be a vaccine and mass vaccinations, as is now the case with influenza and other diseases. But we will not see the results of vaccination until at least one to two years after the vaccine has been developed. However, we cannot completely paralyse the whole country for all that time. We must find a calm balance on the razor's edge.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

An invitation for the deadly virus

In a blog post for the Echo of Moscow opposition economist Andrey Illarionov considers the announced measures to be counterproductive:

“Not only will the holiday week he has announced not stop the epidemic, it will fuel it even further. It's not holidays we need but a quarantine. And not for a week, but for at least a month. Hundreds of thousands of citizens - if not millions - should be tested. We need tens of thousands of ventilators. ... But Putin has said nothing about that. He hasn't proposed any solution at all to the problem of the Russian epidemic, meaning that he's opening the door to the deadly infection. The price we will have to pay for this inadequate approach will be enormous.”

Postimees (EE) /

Pneumonia and whooping cough - nonsense!

Vikki Perijainen, fact checker at Postimees, is very concerned about the news she's hearing from Russia:

“At a time when the whole world is panicking, the major Russian news media are reacting calmly. But the social media and opposition publications paint a very different picture. ... According to doctors and activists, the statistics on the number of cases are being deliberately doctored. ... Coronavirus infections are being diagnosed as other illnesses, which is why the official number of cases of pneumonia has increased by 37 percent and of whooping cough by 40 percent. ... The undemocratic regime is muzzling doctors and falsifying statistics to avoid international and domestic criticism. Real action comes too late. The same thing happened in China, and now the whole world is suffering.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

The priority is to keep the people calm

Putin was above all trying to prevent an even worse state of emergency, Radio Kommersant FM believes:

“Nothing bad has happened, quite the opposite in fact: instead of quarantine we get a week's holiday. But where can you relax when everything's closed? All we have at home is the TV and alcohol. But that's still better than having the army on the streets - so the thinking seems to be. The message was: Russia is somehow getting along, but we're not alone in the world. The attack is coming from outside. And for that reason, citizens, be reasonable and follow the doctors' instructions. And the constitutional referendum is being postponed indefinitely. That was foreseeable, because it's difficult to lure the electorate to the polls during a pandemic - and that, in turn, could have an impact on the outcome.”