It took a while for the Russian authorities to react to the threat from the Wuhan virus, though it did announce that it was closing its long frontier with China just a day ahead of the United States, on 30 January. The completely unbelievable official statistics insisted and insist still that relatively few have actually caught the virus. Yet the Russian Government suddenly imposed a dramatic lockdown and launched a massive propaganda campaign for public safety. It came from nowhere like the first winter snow.
But now what is so striking to someone subjected to American television coverage of the virus is that Russia’s copybook comes straight from the United States. Television channels Pervyi Kanal and Zvezda, for example, follow American practices to the tee: it is like – and as boring as – watching Fox in Russian. There are notable differences in other respects, however. President Putin appears gloomily alone in a one man press conference without attendant journalists, dispensing advice to the public, looking thoroughly exhausted; whereas, maddeningly to many, his American counterpart never seems to need any sleep. And endless trick questions and jibes from CNN and PBS seem to revivify him.
With respect to measures to contain the virus – and Russia reacted very late indeed – the Russian authorities behave even worse than the British but in the same mindlessly officious manner. In Britain, where the police are run by the county except in the London metropolitan area, idle officers not out chasing criminals are instructed to caution people for driving a car “unnecessarily” or sitting in a park as a pair, and warn people that they cannot buy Easter eggs because they are inessential and prevent anyone buying gardening equipment (the latter could prove to be the last straw.)
The Russian equivalent is even more insane, and a joke from the web published in Nezavisimaya gazeta captures the moment:
“One of the siloviki [hardliners] at a session of the government declares:
– Not a minute must be lost! All our efforts have to be mobilised! Everyone who appears on the street must be fined, arrested, beaten! And shot for resisting!
– And will this help conquer the coronovirus?
– What coronovirus?”
Нездоровые приоритеты властей
Что случится со страной, если с коронавирусом будут бороться только для отчетности
Об авторе: Сергей Георгиевич Левченко – экс-губернатор Иркутской области, первый секретарь иркутского обкома КПРФ.