Russia on the Ground – June 2020

In Moscow, several of Russia's biggest e-commerce and delivery companies including Ozon, Perekrestok.ru, Azbuka Vkusa, Dodo Pizza, and Delivery Club announced that they had sponsored a new monument to delivery workers on the grounds of the Izmeritel Business Center on Kholodilny Lane near Tulskaya Metro in central Moscow. The inscription reads: "To those, who made self-isolation possible." The companies claim that this is the world's first monument to couriers.

This resource serves to track domestic news inside Russia – focusing primarily on demographics, public opinion, economy, and major domestic political events inside Russia.

It is intended to give students who are otherwise following major issues and events within Russia greater context from which to view those issues and events. This resource lists useful but often under-reported information that can help build a pragmatic and objective view of Russia’s domestic situation.

Polls

Trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin sinks to 25%, approval of his actions down to 63%
Trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin has fallen to 25%, its lowest level ever, while approval of his actions is down to 63%, the same level as in 2013.

Russia’s Not so Radical Youth
Sociological surveys don’t provide much ammunition to support the idea of Russian youth as revolutionaries in waiting – in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

One in three Russians would ignore a coronavirus vaccine even if one were available
One in three (37%) Russians would refuse to take a vaccine against coronavirus (COVID-19) even if one were available, according to a survey conducted by Russia’s Higher School of Economics.

Russians were more positive about life in June
As restrictions imposed to counter the spread of coronavirus were lifted in early June, Russians were more positive about their life situations. More than two thirds of citizens say it’s positive, a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center shows.

Pre-Pandemic, Most Russians Unhappy With Healthcare
Even as the number of COVID-19 cases in Russia stabilize and hard-hit Moscow eased its lockdown on June 1, the pandemic has laid bare problems with the country’s healthcare system that Russians have been aware of for years.

A third of Russians believe that the danger of the coronavirus epidemic is exaggerated or a fiction
A third of Russians (32.8%) believe that the danger of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic is exaggerated, or they consider it to be an invention of interested parties, according to a study conducted by the Higher School of Economics (HSE).

45% of Russians had no savings before coronavirus pandemic led to spike in unemployment
Almost half of all Russians had no money saved when Covid-19 hit the country, according to a new survey, with only 26% of the population having enough to survive self-isolation if all sources of income were stopped.

Third of Russians unhappy with state of environment
Around a third of Russians are unhappy with the state of the environment where they live, according to a survey conducted by state-run pollster VTsIOM.

Russians’ Readiness to Protest May or May Not be Increasing
While Russians are increasingly unhappy about conditions in their country, the Levada Center says, it is unclear whether the share of them who are prepared to take to the streets is growing or not, given that new figures may reflect only a change in the way the center evaluates that possibility.

New polling shows that Vladimir Putin and Alexey Navalny are Russia’s two most inspiring public figures
President Vladimir Putin and opposition politician Alexey Navalny are the two most inspiring public figures in Russia today, according to a new survey by the Levada Center, an independent polling agency.

 

Environment

Russian fuel spill declared federal emergency
The Kremlin has declared a spill of diesel fuel at the power plant of Norilsk Nickel metals major in the Krasnoyarsk region as a federal emergency, and heads may start rolling as deep structural ESG dangers are exposed.

Once-in-a-1,000-year snow melt floods hydropower plant on Russia’s far northern coast
There were more melting permafrost problems for Russia’s energy infrastructure after the TGK1 power station on the Far Northwest coast reported on June 9 that two of its hydropower units were flooded with “abnormal water inflow” due to melting snow. No serious damage was done, although the company’s personnel have been put on high alert.

Temperatures in Russia’s Arctic Circle rocketed to over 45°C in the coldest town on earth, breaking all previous records on June 19
This summer has turned into the hottest since record-keeping began, as towns that are usually still blanketed by snow are experiencing a blazing heat wave, thanks to the escalating climate crisis.

Why it’s so damn hot in the Arctic right now
The Arctic is continuing to swelter in a heat wave, as temperatures around the Arctic Ocean this week top 93 degrees Fahrenheit.

Moscow Oil Spill Triggers 1,000-Fold Pollution Surge
An oil spill north of Moscow has caused a 1,000-fold increase in pollution levels at a reservoir that supplies water to Russia’s capital, the Federal Water Resources Agency said on June 29.

 

COVID-19 in Russia

– Demographics & Civil Society

Coronavirus shortages give Russia’s charity sector a new spark
The coronavirus pandemic has spurred creation of many charitable organizations in Russia, a country where the charity sector is nascent – and still learning to coexist with the prickly government.

Pandemic Blasts Change Through Russia’s Church
Increased coronavirus infection rates among Russian churchgoers could seriously damage attitudes toward Orthodoxy for a long time.

Healthcare Reform, Demographic Trends, and COVID-19 In Russia
A conversation with Judyth Twigg, a professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University.

International air links with Russia may remain closed until fall as EU discusses ban on Russians & Americans entering bloc
Russian tourists looking to go abroad may be out of luck for a few more months, as experts believe that flights to foreign countries may not resume until the end of summer, at least.

 

     – Federal Response (Health)

Russia to Ship Covid-19 Drug to Hospitals in Race for Treatment
Russia is preparing to provide hospitals with a coronavirus drug developed with the sovereign wealth fund’s backing after gaining initial approval from the Health Ministry amid a global race to find safe and effective treatments for Covid-19.

Can the Russian Health Care System Cope With the Coronavirus?
Russia inherited enough hospital beds from the Soviet health system to handle Covid-19 patients—but not the medical personnel or supplies.

 

    – Federal Response (Politics)

As Russia reopens, Putin takes a back seat to local leaders
Russia and the United States have followed similar arcs in their coronavirus lockdowns. More surprisingly, their governments have also been delegating authority for reopening in similar ways: by deferring to local leaders.

 

     – Federal Response (Industries and Business)

Russia Prices Economic Recovery Plan at $70Bln
Russia will launch a 5 trillion ruble ($73 billion) recovery plan next month to offset economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said in a televised meeting with President Vladimir Putin on June 2.

Something for everyone in Russia’s National Plan for Economic Recovery
In early June, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin presented President Vladimir Putin with the government’s new National Plan for Economic Recovery (NPER) plan to help the economy get back on its feet following the double hit of an oil price shock and the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.

 

     – Economic Effects

Russia’s rebound becomes visible as the ruble breaks below RUB70 to the dollar
If Russia’s plan was not to panic, keep its powder dry and wait for oil prices to recover then that plan is working pretty well.

How Bad, Really, Is The Coronavirus Pandemic In Russia?
Russia’s success or failure in handling the Covid-19 epidemic will affect its investment climate for years to come.

Sberbank upgrades RTS end of year target to 1,500
“We have upgraded our 2020 RTS Index target to 1,500 after an impressive rally on the bond market,” equity analysts Andrey Kuznetsov and Cole Akeson of Sberbank CIB said in a note on June 8.

Russian government spending on national projects runs low, but 2H20 should see boost
The coronacrisis has knocked back work on Russia’s 12 national projects, causing further interruptions after the programme was plagued by delays in the first half of last year as well. Over the first five months of this year federal spending on the projects was only 28.9% of the annual plan.

It’s Russia’s cheapest crisis ever and the CBR is still accumulating cash
Despite an oil price shock, a two-month lockdown of the entire Russian economy, a 20% devaluation of the ruble and an economic bailout package that is worth 10% of GDP, Russia managed to increase its hard currency reserves by $3.8bn between January 1 and May 31.

BNE’s Despair Index paints a mixed picture during the corona storm
bne’s Despair Index measures the pain being felt by the bottom half of society, and so far despair has ticked up a little but not a lot in most countries in New Europe.

Russia’s Economy Ministry releases fresh forecasts for 2020 and beyond on June 18
Russia’s Ministry of Economics has released a fresh forecast for 2019-2022: no V-shaped recovery, but strong RUB and low inflation and unemployment.

Russia cuts interest rates to lowest level since fall of Soviet Union
On June 19, Russia’s central bank cut key interest rates to a record low 4.5 percent, citing stronger-than-expected “disinflationary factors” stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

Russia’s economic contraction, subdued inflation suggest more rate cuts likely in 2020
Russia will continue cutting interest rates this year from already record-low levels as it faces a worsening economic contraction and subdued inflationary risks, according to a poll of economists and analysts released by Reuters on June 30.

IMF forecasts deeper slump for Russian, global economies
The International Monetary Fund has downgraded its outlook for the Russian economy in 2020 and now expects the country to see a slump of 6.6% instead of the 5.5% drop it forecast in April.

 

     – Moscow

Face masks to be mandatory in Moscow until city has been vaccinated, mid-autumn at the earliest
For much of the world, lockdown feels like it has been going on forever. In Moscow, despite measures and restrictions easing off, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin believes it will take a year for everything to get back to normal.

Masks on, but flouting social distancing: How Moscow residents were freed from lockdown
The first day since the self-isolation, travel permits and walking schedule were lifted in Moscow began as if the coronavirus epidemic had never happened and it was just a usual Tuesday in June — with small traffic jams and crowds in the metro.

Moscow Cultural Life Is Slowly Reawakening
First to open their doors — carefully — are museums.

 

    – Other Cities and Regions

Coronavirus Is Just Getting Started in Some Russian Regions. Their WWII Parades Are Going Ahead
Meanwhile, 20 cities have canceled or delayed the June 24 parades because of the pandemic.

 

Policy and Conflict Post SovietEconomy – Other News

Russia maintains budget surplus, external position in April 2020
In April, Russia maintained double surpluses in its external accounts with a trade surplus of $3.5bn ($35.6bn in 4M20) and a current account surplus of $1.8bn $23.5bn 4M20).

The 0.5 percent
How Russia plans to drop flat income taxes.

Kremlin considering an end to flat rate income tax
Officials at the top of government are looking at scrapping the flat rate personal income tax, which has been a cornerstone of Russia’s tax policy under Putin.

With Genre Hits Back Home, Russian Filmmakers Eye Global Market
When the bottom fell out of the Russian economy during the crisis of 2014, sending the ruble into a tailspin, the shockwaves reverberating across the country had a seismic impact on the film industry. For many accustomed to the old ways of doing business, a dramatic rethink was at hand.

Udokan: Alisher Usmanov’s Siberian copper valley
Twelve years ago, when Alisher Usmanov, one of the richest men in Russia, won an auction and paid $500mn for the Udokan licence, some experts were sceptical that the commercial development of the deposit would eventually take place.

 

Politics

Putin offers to discuss amendments to Russian Constitution further
The document proposes to expand the powers of the Russian parliament and the Russian Constitutional Court and sets a fixed number of presidential terms.

What Are Russians Voting for in Putin’s Constitution Poll?
On June 25, millions of Russians are set to go to the polls starting to vote on a package of constitutional amendments proposed by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year.

Vote to Extend Putin’s Rule Faces Little Protest in Russia
Russian authorities are pulling out all the stops to get people to vote on constitutional amendments that would enable President Vladimir Putin to stay in office until 2036. The country’s divided opposition, meanwhile, has failed to mobilize a significant protest amid the audacious election campaign and the weeklong voting that begins with early balloting on June 25.

Claims of vote rigging accompany launch of voting in Russia’s constitutional referendum
Russia started early voting in its controversial referendum on changes to the constitution on June 25 that will reset the presidential term counter for Russian President Vladimir Putin to zero and allow him to remain in office until 2036. However, famous Russian statistician Sergey Shpilkin claims that there are already signs of vote rigging in the data on registered voters.

Russia’s Constitutional Amendments Keep Several Futures Open for Putin
On July 1, Russian citizens will be voting to approve amendments to the 1993 constitution, proposed by Vladimir Putin in January, planned for a vote in April and postponed to the summer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. If adopted, the main change will be to allow Putin to stay in power after the end of his second consecutive—and fourth total—mandate, possibly up to 2036.

 

Civil Society – Other

Communists Campaign Against Reforms Giving Putin More Years in Power
Russia’s Communist Party has launched a campaign urging supporters to vote against a set of constitutional amendments that would allow President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for the next decade and a half.

Telegram no longer blocked in Russia, app’s founder hopeful
The messenger has been banned in the country for the last two years.

Russian state exit polls show 76% so far back reforms that could extend Putin rule
The nationwide vote on constitutional reforms began on June 25 and is being held over seven days as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic.

About the Author

Alex Sitnikov

Alex holds a BA in Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language (RFL) and is currently on his way to get an MA in Translation. He came to Moscow from Tolyatti to study at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2013 and has been in love with the city ever since. In March 2018 Alex joined SRAS to help coordinate student activities in Moscow. When he’s not occupied with that, Alex likes to play guitar and read.