Russia on the Ground – March 2020

The well known Dom Knigi bookstore in Moscow displays a sign reading "Stay Home. Take Care of Yourselves and Your Loved Ones" in late March, 2020, as the city enters a Coronavirus quarantine. Foto: mos.ru. Credit: Maksim Denisov

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.

 

Coronavirus

Russia to disinfect parliament chamber after lawmaker broke quarantine to hear Putin
Russia is disinfecting its parliament chamber after a lawmaker ignored coronavirus quarantine to attend assembly sessions, including one where President Vladimir Putin gave a speech.

Space crew to go to ISS on April 9 to skip some traditional pre-launch procedures because of coronavirus
The members of a space crew scheduled to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 9 will have to skip a number of traditional pre-launch events as a measure to minimize the coronavirus spread risk, Pavel Vlasov, the chief of the Cosmonaut Training Center, told journalists on Thursday, March 12.

Russia’s government ramps up preparations to fight economic fall-out of coronavirus
Russia’s government is starting to ramp up its preparations to fight the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and will put a comprehensive plan in place to deal with the economic impact of the associated slowdown.

Seven time zones of Siberia and Russian Far East are almost clear of coronavirus – but why?
Virus expert says doubts ‘gnaw’ at him over lack of confirmed cases east of Urals to Pacific.

Russia builds coronavirus hospital in Moscow as cases rise
Moscow authorities are rushing to build a hospital for coronavirus patients, city officials have said, similar to the medical facilities that were constructed from scratch in China.

COVID- 19: The View from Siberia
Chronology of consciousness and events in relation to the COVID 19 pandemic as they evolved in the normal course of life in Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk (the third largest city in Russia).

Russians have crisis experience: Only 5% began stockpiling early for fear of coronavirus shortages
Some recent scenes from British and Australian supermarkets have been shocking, with people fighting in the aisles over toilet paper, and the like. With the experience of past crises, Russians are a bit more chilled.

The core of the Russian executive cabinet’s new COVID-19 economic crisis plan, point by point
Russia’s executive branch has prepared a series of anti-crisis measures to support the country’s economy and its citizens amid the current coronavirus pandemic.

Why does Russia, population 146 million, have fewer coronavirus cases than Luxembourg?
Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week his country managed to stop the mass spread of coronavirus — and that the situation was “under control,” thanks to early and aggressive measures to keep more people from getting the disease.

Russia to use mobile phones to track people at risk of coronavirus
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Monday gave the authorities five days to develop a system to track people who have come into contact with anyone with coronavirus by using mobile phone geolocation data.

Over 65s in Moscow to be PAID to self-isolate – except for President Putin
If you can’t force them, perhaps the only solution is to bribe them? Moscow’s mayor has ordered all over 65s to stay at home for almost three weeks and is offering a cash incentive to encourage them to comply.

What Lies Behind Russia’s Coronavirus Containment Effort
If you can’t force them, perhaps the only solution is to bribe them? Moscow’s mayor has ordered all over 65s to stay at home for almost three weeks and is offering a cash incentive to encourage them to comply.

Putin’s newly announced COVID-19 crisis response, point by point
On March 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the nation as confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country spiked to 658.

No need to impose lockdown in Russia, WHO official says
There is currently no need to impose lockdown in Moscow and other Russian cities due to the coronavirus, the World Health Organization’s representative in Russia Melita Vujnovic told the Future of Russia. National Projects web portal operated by TASS.

The new coronavirus is finally slamming Russia. Is the country ready?
For weeks, Russia seemed to have dodged a bullet. As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) raged just across the border in China, Russia was virtually untouched, reporting just seven confirmed infections as recently as 10 March. Since then, the number has risen fast: Russia has now reported 840 infections, about two-thirds of them in the Moscow region.

Muscovites will soon need QR-codes to leave their homes
Russia’s capital imposes self-isolation in a desperate attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Harsh but necessary
Mathematical modeling shows that Moscow’s citywide lockdown is needed to prevent coronavirus from killing more than 100 thousand people.

Russia confirms coronavirus case in Putin’s administration, tightens curbs
The Kremlin confirmed a coronavirus case in President Vladimir Putin’s administration on March 27 and the government said measures imposed in Moscow to fight the virus should be extended across Russia.

What is quarantine like for coronavirus patients in Russia?
A manager, producer, and amateur soccer player talk about how they fell sick with COVID-19, how they get treated in the hospital, and what they do in quarantine.

‘They need to quarantine Moscow’
How small businesses in Russia’s capital are scrambling to stay afloat as coronavirus clobbers the economy.

From personal experience: How I was tested for coronavirus
Who gets tested for the new coronavirus and how is it done in Moscow?

Is Moscow’s Virus Lockdown Order Legal?
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s announcement of an indefinite citywide quarantine to limit the spread of the coronavirus has prompted debates over whether his strict measures are legal.

Russians seek refuge from coronavirus in dacha country homes
Russians have long relied on dachas – out-of-town cottages with plots of land – as a source of refuge and food during times of political and economic turmoil.

Coronavirus patients treated at home to be granted free medicines
Free medicines will be delivered by ambulance crews, polyclinic employees or volunteers.

Bill broadening Government’s powers at times mass diseases loom reaches State Duma
Russia’s Government has submitted to the State Duma a package of amendments to the legislation seeking to vest it with new powers to prevent and respond to emergencies, among them threats of mass diseases outbreaks, the lower house of Russia’s parliament informs.

Russian finance ministry says no plans to cut 2020 budget spendings
Russia has no plans to reduce spending outlined in this year’s budget despite the coronavirus outbreak, thanks to plentiful reserves, finance ministry said in a statement on March 23.

 

Economy

OECD Slashes Russia Growth Forecast in Stark Coronavirus Warning
Even if the spread slows, the economic effects of coronavirus will last throughout 2020, new report says.

To hike or not to hike? CBR faces tough choice this month
Inflation is expected to rise this year following the devaluation of the ruble in the last weeks, but economic growth is also anticipated to stall. What should the Bank of Russia do to deal with these conflicting changes?

Coronavirus Hits Russian Tourism for $400M Loss
The coronavirus outbreak has caused havoc across the global travel industry as companies restrict employee trips, airlines axe flights, major events are postponed and holidaymakers choose to stay at home or delay their travel.

Russian Businesses Show Few Signs of Coronavirus Hit, For Now
Bellwether PMI readings show business conditions holding steady, but deterioration still likely.

On the border
How the Russian region most intertwined with China is coping economically amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Russia bracing for oil shock
The Russian market is facing volatility, with large fiscal reserves and high real rates coming back into investors’ focus, but only after the oil- and corona-related dust settles.

‘We are definitely in better shape than we were in 2016’
Experts consider Russia to be well prepared to an oil price fall.

Russian economy’s growth rates may drop to zero in 2020
Economic growth rates in Russia may decelerate to zero under the current macroeconomic indicators, head of the Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin said on March 12.

Sanctions as an economic booster
The 14th part of Vladimir Putin’s interview to TASS News Agency has been published.

Russian finance chief says domestic economic situation currently uneasy
The situation in the Russian economy is currently not developing in the best way, there is a deviation from macro forecasts for 2020, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at a meeting of the board of the Federal Treasury.

Is Russia facing another banking crisis due to the oil price and coronavirus shocks?
The volume of deals on Russia’s repo market jumped on March 10 and the sector is under pressure, but looking back over the last few years, so far this pressure is very limited

Russia’s National Welfare Fund steps up again to $157.2bn, or 11% of GDP, in March
The amount of money in the NWF reserve fund has risen twice this year from $127bn to $150bn and now again to $157.2bn thanks to a series of transfers by the Russian Ministry of Finance.

Russia faces $39 billion budget shortfall in 2020 from lower oil, gas revenues
Russia faces a budget shortfall of 3 trillion roubles ($39 billion) this year due to falling oil and gas prices, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on March 18, signaling tough times ahead for the Russian economy.

Bill to prevent overpricing at Russian pharmacies reaches State Duma
The bill has been drafted by lawmakers of the lower house of Russia’s Parliament from the ruling United Russia party. The initiative seeks to amend the law on drug circulation, which contains provisions regulating the operations of pharmacies, in a way precluding situations, where drug stores overprice medicines.

 

 

Polls

Government’s Approval Rating
New polls by Levada center monitor approval ratings, the attitude of Russians towards the situation in their country and more.

CEE/CIS populations believe in gender equality in education but not in business or politics
More than 100 years since International Women’s Day was declared a national holiday in post-revolutionary Russia, the day is still widely celebrated across the successor countries to the Soviet Union and in Central and Southeast Europe. Yet as a new survey from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reveals, gender bias is still widespread across the region, in line with the global findings of the research.

Russians See Mass Protests As Increasingly Unlikely
Russians are less likely to take to the streets today than they were a year ago as their living standards gradually improve, the independent Levada Center pollster has said.

75% of Russians Say Soviet Era Was ‘Greatest Time’ in Country’s History
Three out of four Russians think the Soviet era was the best time in their country’s history, according to a survey published by the independent Levada Center pollster on March 24.

Putin’s approval rating rises after address to Russian nation due to COVID-19
In his address to the nation on March 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin outlined measures aimed to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus and several economic solutions to the plight the country has landed in due to the outbreak of the disease.

Russians split down the middle on presidential terms reset as Putin’s approval rating falls
Following a few months of political shocks in Russia, voters have become used to surprises. But opinion seems to be divided on whether restarting the clock on time spent in the Kremlin is worth supporting, says a new survey.

 

Demographics

Leaving Moscow For the Good Life
Ambitious young Russian professionals are moving out of the capital.

 

Science

Russia aims to revive science after era of stagnation
Some researchers see promise in planned reforms.

 

Infrastructure

Putin signs Arctic master plan
The strategic document paves way for a massive industrialization of the country’s far north.

The cases for optimism and pessimism
Can Russia’s healthcare system handle the coronavirus outbreak?

 

Policy and Conflict Post SovietPolitics

Putin emphasizes Russian corporate CEOs no longer hold policy-making clout
The CEOs of Russia’s major corporations no longer influence the process of running the nation, contrary to what they did in the 1990s, Russian President Vladimir Putin told TASS in an interview for its project entitled “20 Questions with Vladimir Putin.”

Medvedev’s Security Council Role Makes Him And it More Interesting
When Vladimir Putin appointed his just-resigned ex-premier Dmitry Medvedev to the new position of deputy chair of the Security Council, speculation abounded as to whether this was a meaningful position or a face-saving sinecure. Now, we may have some answers — but also some new questions about the future.

Russia’s Uncertain Regime Transformation
Despite the drama, Vladimir Putin’s announcement endorsing a constitutional change allowing him to remain president from 2024 does surprisingly little to change the status quo.

52 pages for 12 more years
How Russia’s Constitutional Court justified letting Putin stick around and a whole lot more.

The constitutionality of six terms
Russia’s high court must decide if Putin can legally serve another two presidential terms. Here’s how the decision is supposed to work.

Law on amendment to Russian Federation Constitution
The President signed the Law of the Russian Federation on introducing an amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, On Improving the Regulation of Certain Aspects of the Organisation and Functioning of Public Authority.

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.