Over the weekend, Russia struck a grim milestone, officially recording the country’s highest number of coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, with 10,633 people testing positive. And the economic pressure is getting worse: Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on state television last week that he had never experienced a situation such as Covid-19.
“I don’t remember anything like this,” he said, adding that plummeting global oil prices — a key source of Russian state revenue — had given the country’s economy a “double blow.”
Coronavirus Put Putin in a hard situation
To Russian President Vladimir Putin, it adds up to a risky political moment. Less than half of respondents — 46 per cent — said the Russian government had reacted adequately to the crisis in a recent survey conducted by independent pollster Levada-Center.
Even the pandemic has hit the normal sky-high approval ratings for Putin. As authorities recognised the spread of coronavirus in Russia in March, Levada-Center observed that Putin’s level of approval had fallen to 63%. That might sound big, but it’s a level not seen since 2013. Before Russia’s invasion of Crimea spurred the president to get a groundswell of public support.
Coronavirus has especially hard struck Moscow, the country’s political centre of gravity. The capital accounts for roughly half of the cases in the world, according to official statistics. Before the pandemic, Muscovites were involved in politics and participated. For example, in large street protests following the failed parliamentary elections in 2011.
Although shutdown steps mean that new street demonstrations are out of the picture. Online Russians have taken their discontent: over 67,000 views on YouTube already by one live-streamed debate last week.
Russia’s weakened opposition has seized on the coronavirus crisis to heighten its criticism of the government. Particularly over the economic response of the Kremlin to the crisis. Opposition chief Alexey Navalny. For example, he advocated to reopen the National Welfare Fund. A 165-billion-dollar pool of money generated by extremely high oil costs to help people and small companies rebound. Although spokesperson for the Kremlin Dmitry Peskov rejected the notion of Navalny as “populist” and “superficial”. They gathered more than 1 million signatures from three online petitions for Navalny’s proposals.