Vladimir Putin’s popularity slumps as coronavirus ravages Russia

The popularity of Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken a blow as the country saw more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections for the second day in a row. 

Today saw 10,581 new confirmed cases of the disease after Sunday’s 10,633, putting the total in Russia at 145,268, meaning that Russia is now recording more new infections than any European country.

Today also saw 76 new deaths from Covid-19 recorded putting the countries total number of coronavirus fatalities at 1,356.

While Putin’s approval ratings have remained relatively stable, his trust ratings have been declining, with only 46 per cent of people surveyed in March saying they want to see Putin remain in power after his current term expires in 2024. The survey was done by the independent polling group Levada Centre.

The president’s trust rating, which according to The Daily Telegraph is seen as a more forward-looking metric than current approval ratings, was at 54 per cent last June, showing that it has been in decline for some time, likely compounded by his handling of the crisis.

The country is currently under a nation-wide lockdown, which The Kremlin extended until May 11, and has said that the government will begin relaxing measures on a region-by-region basis after this date.

Meanwhile, details have emerged of how Russia is diverting its military factories to urgently produce equipment desperately needed in hospitals, some of which have begun building temporary field hospitals outside to meet the increasing patient demand.

Vladimir Putin has seen his trust ratings fall following dissatisfaction with the Russian government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and as cases of the disease continue to rise

 

The government has offered little aid to its citizens compared to what other European countries have done during the coronavirus pandemic, with Putin choosing to distance himself from the crisis response and leaving it to regional leaders to manage.

Russia’s opposition leader, Alexel Navalny, has petitioned the Kremlin to broaden emergency payouts to Russians to and cease all taxes on small businesses. His petition has received over half a million supporting signatures. 

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While the government did announce some supportive measures, such as tax breaks and interest free loans, this has not been seen as enough with citizens, particularly outside of Moscow, wanting more help.

A Russian football player, Yevgeny Frolov, gave a stringing public rebuke of the government’s response to the crisis last week, crticising banks for not following through of Putin’s orders to give loans and the police for their heavy handedness. 

Referring to Putin’s weekly address to the nation, which have frustrated many, Frolov said: ‘What the president says on television is all nonsense. There are no real actions. When talking to real businessmen, one can learn that banks will never issue soft loans and will not give a [loan] delay.

‘We are forced to stay at home, and there is no help from the state,’ he said. ‘We are being fined [for going out]. People have no money, and the average fine is 5,000 [rubles]. People are going a second month in a row without a salary. This is not the case in Europe. And we see how our police work: They just twist people’s hands or hit them in face and take them away.’

Frolov, who could be punished by his football club for his comments, compared the current situation to how life if Russia was in the middle ages under feudalism, and criticised lawmakers for not making any concessions of their own.

‘As in the days of serfdom, one has no rights or freedoms,’ he added. ‘You are a slave. At the same time, no lawmaker in the State Duma has offered to cut their own salaries.’

Doctors working inside the intensive care unit for people infected with coronavirus, at a hospital in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday 

In Moscow, the epicentre of the crisis, people have been urged to stay at home despite warm weather, and has seen widespread testing and money thrown at new hospital beds and equipment.

But in other parts on the country which generally have lower living standards, there is a risk that the public health systems could become overwhelmed. 

Doctors have been calling for more support saying they are underfunded and under equipped, and many have said that hospitals lack the basic necessities to treat patients.

In one appeal from the city of Ufa, around 700 miles east of Moscow, a group of doctors filmed a video of themselves urging officials to investigate what they said was a cover-up of an outbreak of the disease at a hospital in the city. 

Russia suffered more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day running as the Kremlin has diverted its vast military capability into overcoming hospital shortages in tackling coronavirus.

Temporary wards at the City Clinical Hospital No 24 have been built to cope with the rising number of coronavirus patients

A total of 76 deaths were officially recorded but there is an acknowledgment that worse is to come.

The new infections total 10,581 – half with no symptoms – taking the total to 145,268, and is the second largest in Russia.

In Moscow, reports say ambulance crews have been banned from taking days off or holidays amid fears that non-coronavirus patients are dying because hospitals cannot cope.

Russians have been told to reduce ‘absolutely unacceptable’ alcohol consumption over a traditional holiday time in early May.

Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes release smoke in the colours of the Russian flag during a rehearsal for the flypast, which marks the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, in Moscow, Russia

A total of 120,000 coronavirus beds are being readied across the country’s 11 time zones with medical students and their teachers ‘mobilised’ for duty at Covid-19 hospitals.

Exclusive pictures show how emergency tented wards have been added to hospitals in Moscow to cope with the pandemic amid fears the city’s capacity can be overrun.

Half of today’s new cases, some 5,975, were registered in hotspot Moscow where there were 35 deaths.

Ilyushin IL-76MD strategic airlifters fly over Red Square during a rehearsal for the May 9 Victory Day air show

Meanwhile, huge efforts being taken to prevent President Vladimir Putin becoming infected, said his spokesman.

‘All of us, particularly the president, will have to live with these precautions for a little longer,’ said Dmitry Peskov.

‘We all understand that health risks are high for everyone, regardless of their position. This is why the president is working remotely from his Novo-Ogaryovo residence.’

Despite the lockdown a rehearsal was held today for an air-only display to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of of the Second World War for Russia on May 9. 

Russian military helicopters fly above the State Historical Museum during a rehearsal for the flypast later this week

A plan to bring 15,000 soldiers onto Red Square in Moscow, alongside 300 pieces of military equipment, has been postponed until after the pandemic.

But it is thought 75 aircraft will still fly over the city at 10am Moscow-time. 

Battle and transport helicopters will hover over the Red Square, while Mi-8s, and Mi-26s fly above. A squadron of Mi-28s, known as Havocs, which are modern all-weather attack helicopters, will follow.

Russia’s fighter jets and the world’s largest strategic airlift jet will also join.  

Details have emerged of how Russia is diverting its military factories to urgently produce equipment desperately needed in hospitals.

Despite the lockdown a rehearsal was held today for an air-only display to mark the 9 May Russian 75th anniversary of the end of of the Second World War

A Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bomber (left) and an Ilyushin IL-78 aerial refuelling tanker fly over central Moscow

The Sorbent gas mask factory in Perm has been tasked with producing medical respirators.

The NPO Splav plant in Tula – which normally produces Grad and Smerch multiple rocket launchers – is now prioritising facemarks for Covid-19 hospitals.

Loung ventilators are being manufactured by the sprawling KRET concern, maker of electronic warfare equipment, reported Zvezda TV, controlled by the Russian defence ministry.

Polyot factory in Ivanovo – famous for military parachutes – has been ordered to make medical suits amid frequent reports of shortages in Russian hospitals.

Russian Mi-8 and Mi-26 helicopters fly over the Red Square. It’s thought 75 aircraft will fly over the city at 10am Moscow-time on Saturday

NPP Radiosvyaz communications equipment factory in Siberia is now diverted to making air filters.

A military equipment plant – Zverev in Krasnogorsk – has developed and started producing medical heat sensors instead of thermal and night vision optics for the Mi-28 helicopter and the Kornet anti-tank guided missile.

More than 3,000 Russian troops and cadets have been infected with coronavirus, said the Defence Ministry.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko urged Russians to go easy on vodka and other alcohol amid the coronavirus crisis – although no ban has been imposed.

The production hall at the Polyot factory in Ivanovo which has been drafted in to make PPE equipment amid reports of shortages in Russian hospitals

He complained the had been a rise of almost three per cent in consumption during lockdown.

‘Alcohol definitely does not help in this situation,’ he said referring to coronavirus.

‘Alcohol weakens the immune system.

‘It also provokes an exacerbation of cardiovascular diseases and any chronic illnesses that patients may have.

‘So alcohol is absolutely unacceptable in this situation.’

Russians have been told they are still two weeks away from reaching a peak, but warned by chief epidemiologist Nikolai Briko not to expect a decline until June.

Meanwhile, a former British-registered cruise ship has sailed to the Arctic to stem a major outbreak of coronavirus causing deep concern in Russia.

A picture shows the Princess Anastasia as it arrived in Kola Bay near Murmansk where 1,680 out of a 10,000 gas port construction site workforce are infected with Covid-19. This is a one day raise of 251.

Princess Anastasia arrives in Kola Bay near Murmansk where 1,680 out of a 10,000 gas port construction site workforce are infected with Covid-19

The 2,392-capacity cruise ship was formerly called the Pride of Bilbao and was registered in Portsmouth before being sold to Russian owners Moby St Peter Line after a refit in Falmouth.

The vessel – which for many years ferried tourists between Portsmouth and Bilbao and also Cherbourg – was called in by Vladimir Putin as an emergency measure to provide additional accommodation for workers at the strategic Novatek construction site.

It may be used in part as a floating hospital. Four have died at the Belokamenka site.

The vessel – with a casino and ‘sky bar’ and now named after Anastasia, the youngest daughter of last Tsar Nicholas II – will be used to accommodate workers.

Infections have spread like wildfire in the barrack-style accommodation where the builders, many of them migrants, are now living.

The ship – which once featured in an episode of Only Fools and Horses – sailed to the Arctic Circle site from Gdansk in Poland.

Another major outbreak is feared at Siberian gas-oil operation Chayanda where 3,500 are feared to be infected.    

Moscow City Clinical Hospital No 24, pictured after it was redesigned for COVID patients

Putin will reportedly deploy helicopters and drones to enforce the lockdown, with Russia’s National Guard monitoring compliance with tough measures imposed in response to the pandemic.

Monday and Tuesday are legal holidays, and Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany – a day that typically sees mass gatherings.  

Front-line medical workers have been hit hard with the Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin admitting around 2,000 suffering from coronavirus in the capital city.

Yesterday, it also emerged a third Russian doctor has plunged from a hospital window after complaining about medics facing intolerable coronavirus pressures.   

There is concern that warm spring weather and a string of holidays could draw people in large numbers to leave home and gather in woodland parks. 

Moscow has emerged as a hotspot for the virus in Russia, with the mayor earlier estimating from screening results that 2 per cent of the population has been hit – more than a quarter of a million people.

More than half of the new deaths announced yesterday were in Moscow – some 34.

‘About 1,000 people are currently ill, another 1,000 have recovered,’ Sobyanin said. 

President Putin says the situation remains ‘very difficult’ with another 200,000-plus under medical supervision, suspected of contracting the disease in Russia. 

Ambulance doctor Alexander Shulepov (left), 37, and ambulance paramedic Alexander Kosyakin, (right). Shulepov is fighting for his life with head injuries after taking part in in a video which claimed he was ordered to work despite testing positive for Covid-19

The mayor – who has become a point man for the government’s fightback against coronavirus – hit back at claims that Russia is concealing the scale of infections.

‘If the authorities conceal something from them, clarify it incorrectly, or are trying to gloss something over, and people do not know the true picture, they will fail,’ he warned. ‘A lot depends on our behaviour. The behaviour of each person.’

‘If people do not understand why the self-isolation regime was imposed, the reason for these measures, nothing and no extra restrictive measures will keep them in check.’ 

Dr Alexander Shulepov, 37, is fighting for his life with head injuries after taking part in in a video which claimed he was ordered to work despite testing positive for Covid-19. He became the third Russian doctor to fall from a window in recent weeks. 

The 37-year-old and his colleagues also warned about PPE shortages in Voronezh city. Later – lying in a coronavirus hospital bed – Shulepov made a second video to retract the claims amid suspicions he was pressured to do so. 

A medical worker leading a woman inside the Novomoskovsky multipurpose medical centre for patients with suspected coronavirus infection in Moscow today 

On Saturday, while being treated at Novousmanskaya district hospital, the experienced ambulance doctor plunged from a second floor window sustaining skull fractures. He is now in a grave condition. 

Two senior women doctors in Russia have died recently after falling from hospital windows amid reports they had challenged their superiors over a lack of PPE for coronavirus patients.

Defence officials have admitted that the virus is spreading in the army with more than 2,900 service personnel including cadets and civilians now hit.

In Moscow, some 4,000 hotel rooms close to hospitals have been taken over for medical staff to prevent them travelling home across the city, risking a great infection spread.

An alarming hotspot has emerged as the Chayanda in Siberia gas depot where more than 3,000 workers are believed to be infected, according to regional official Olga Balabkina.

A mobile hospital is being built at the site, in Russia’s coldest region, Yakutia. Some 10,000 workers are at the site and vulnerable to infection.

More than 1,200 are infected at a another gas construction above the Arctic Circle in Murmansk region.

Gas giant Gazprom flew in 200,000 items of protection to overcome a shortage in hospitals in St Petersburg.

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