As the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold across the globe, questions are increasingly being asked about the veracity of official Russian infection statistics. Last week, Moscow’s mayor informed President Vladimir Putin that the number of coronavirus cases in the city far surpassed the official figures. Subsequently, the Kremlin escalated its response and imposed stricter measures throughout Russia to combat the pandemic, sealing its borders and canceling all international flights. Additionally, the Kremlin is using the pandemic to increase its power at home and burnish its reputation abroad. As of March 30, there have been 1,836 cases of coronavirus and nine deaths reported in Russia. This event examines how the Kremlin has responded to the coronavirus so far, as well as what the pandemic will mean for Putin’s policies at home and abroad.
Konstantin Eggert, columnist at Deutsche Welle; Jakub Kalenský, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab; E. Wayne Merry, senior fellow for Europe and Eurasia at the American Foreign Policy Council; Vladimir Milov, Russian opposition politician; and Dr. Judyth Twigg, professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, discuss the Kremlin’s response to the coronavirus, as well as the impacts it will have on their policies. Ambassador John Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, will moderate the discussion.
The Kremlin and coronavirus
Despite recording some of the first cases outside of China in early 2020, Russia reported unusually low incidents of coronavirus while those in other regions climbed rapidly. However, in recent days the number of cases in the country has grown rapidly, leading to questions of honesty about initial government reports as well as how equipped Russia’s government and health systems are prepared to deal with a major outbreak. This is in addition to the Kremlin’s exploitation of the virus to spread disinformation, burnish its image abroad, and enlarge political control at home.
Long Take May 27, 2020
The Russian economy in health, oil, and economic crisis
Russia’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic and the ensuing economic crisis does not impress. Arguably, it has hardly been worse than the average EU response—except for the Central European countries, where the pandemic arrived late and who protected themselves much better. The Russian authorities’ attempts to deny and conceal the epidemic have undermined popular trust in Putin, which is lower than ever. Nor have the authorities shown any sign of restart long dormant reforms.
New Atlanticist Mar 27, 2020
Russia orders tech platforms to remove coronavirus “fake news”
By Justin Sherman
The Russian government has been actively engaged in spreading disinformation and misinformation around the pandemic. The Kremlin has also been active in ordering internet platforms operating in the country to remove coronavirus “fake news” from their platforms, which follows previous Kremlin efforts to crack down on independent internet sites offering legitimate news.
The Eurasia Center’s mission is to enhance transatlantic cooperation in promoting policies that strengthen stability, democratic values, and prosperity in Eurasia, from Eastern Europe in the West to the Caucasus, Russia, and Central Asia in the East.