Worrying COVID-19 developments in Russia ahead of military parade in Moscow

24 June 2020

In anticipation of the pompous military parade in Moscow, postponed from May 9 to June 24, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the signing of the pact on Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender, menacing developments are being observed across the Russian Federation regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, authorities deliberately manipulate COVID-19 stats for Moscow since another delay of such an important propaganda opportunity as Victory (or rather say "victory obscurantism") Parade would simply be unacceptable for the Russian leadership.

About a month ago, the Kremlin leadership decided to hold the parade despite the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and a further spread of the pandemic, solely for political reasons. Another reason for such decision was a hasty attempt to implement the so-called "constitutional reform" implying to reset the count of Vladimir Putin’s presidential terms. After a corona-related delay, it was rescheduled to be voted a week after the parade. To this end, in late May, the authorities announced that the stats testified to a positive trend and Russia’s exit from the COVID-19 plateau stage. However, in early summer (as of June 3), more than 8,000 new active cases were detected in Russia. The figure was even higher than the daily increase recorded on May 1, when the victory parade on Moscow’s Red Square had already been canceled, while Russia was on quarantine lockdown. Data on new cases is now being artificially maintained within the preset range between 8,500 and 9,000, which for most Russians have already turned into some kind of acceptable psychological limit. This is no longer a limit that could make Russians anxious, while just two months ago, people used to panic when hearing that the daily spikes were reaching 1,000. Russians have been guided to grow accustomed to this daily limit as authorities keep feeding the public with the same, fabricated daily figures, only shifting the official stats on the latest hikes away from Moscow and toward the more distant cities and regions.

Today, even the World Health Organization has no trust in Russian statistics, warning Russia about the risks of holding a parade, relying on own data on the corona developments. The number of new cases across Russia (as of June 14) is greater than in the rest of Europe: 8,300 against 6,215. For the past month, such a great peak of new active cases was recorded for the first time. The total number more than doubled – from 263,000 to 637,000. The number of active cases as of May 15 stood at 202,000, while as of June 15, it was 246,000. The death toll reached 7,100, which constitutes an increase by 2.4 times. That’s per official stats, which Russian experts admit fails to fit the Rosstat Federal State Statistics Service’s figures. As before, Russian authorities keep manipulating the COVID-19 data. According to Rosstat, in April, 2,712 coronavirus patients died across Russia. This is almost twice the number reported by the COVID-19 response headquarters.

St. Petersburg (Russia’s so-called "Northern Capital") is literally struggling to survive through the current number of coronavirus patients. Even the Navy parade, scheduled to be held in the city on July 26 remains in jeopardy, let alone the infamous Victory Parade.

St. Petersburg is seeing more and more new COVID-19 patients. At the same time, doctors have been strictly ordered to cut the actual figures in official reports, opting for "pneumonia" diagnosis. Meanwhile, Pokrovskaya Hospital in St. Petersburg, the facility treating pneumonia patients, is refusing to admit new ones, failing to cope with the huge load amid the declared quarantine. There’s an acute shortage of beds and wards, so patients are forced to sleep on hallway floor. Intensive care unit’s resources are unavailable, PPE shortage is reported amid the lack of medication required. Fully loaded wards have no centralized oxygen supply. The clinic’s department are shutting down one after another. A similar situation with the increasing number of new patients is being observed in St. George Hospital and Alexanderovskaya Hospital.

In connection with the pandemic threat, Navy command appealed to Vladimir Putin to cancel the rehearsals ahead of the Navy Parade. Despite the plea, the Kremlin moved to deploy another five warships and boats from the Astrakhan-based Caspian flotilla to participate in festivities in Russia’s Northern capital. Earlier, chairman of St. Petersburg sailors and submariners club, Igor Kurdin, called on his comrades not to attend church services in Cathedrals.

Regional authorities across Russia are refusing to hold the Victory Parade simultaneously with Moscow on June 24 (in the face of the raging coronavirus epidemic), which proves that local authorities do realize the true scale of the pandemic.

The first ones to voice such a decision were local authorities in Belgorod and Orel regions, as well as Perm Territory. At the same time, coronavirus figures are rather modest in these regions. According to official data, Belgorod and Orel regions rank 35th and 36th respectively among all Russian regions in terms of COVID-19 incidence. Perm Territory ranks 52nd. Also, at least 13 major Russian cities have snubbed the Victory Day parade scheduled for June 24 over concerns about the COVID-19 epidemic: Orel, Belgorod, Perm, Kursk, Yaroslavl, Tomsk, Pskov, Saransk, Penza, Orenburg, Nizhny Tagil, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Yakutsk , and Chelyabinsk.

Leaders of the Eurasian Economic Union member states are expected to attend the Victory Parade in Moscow, scheduled for June 24. However, some of those high guests are yet to fully recover from COVID-19 (for example, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan). The Kremlin didn’t invite Western leaders because Moscow was afraid of humiliation over possible refusals (even with diplomatic reservations and explanations).

The Kremlin this time didn’t send an invitation to either French President M. Macron or other European leaders (they had sent them though ahead of the initially scheduled date of May 9). This means one thing – Putin wasn’t sure that world leaders would actually come. Amid coronavirus fears, Putin was wary of attending both the parade in Minsk and a rather important consecration of the Cathedral in honor of the Resurrection of Christ in the Patriot Park outside Moscow, which is seen as the main temple of the Russian armed forces.