ISSN 2330-717X

Russia’s Social Constitution Council Calls On Putin To Postpone Referendum Vote – OpEd

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The co-presidents of the Social Constitution Council have called on Vladimir Putin to postpone the referendum on constitutional amendments to prevent the further spread of the pandemic and to allow time for alternatives to be developed so that Russians will have a choice.

The letter from Yevgeny Gontmakher, Leonid Nikitinsky, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Grigory Yavlinsky was sent two days ago but has been posted online only today because of the Victory Day parade (yavlinsky.ru/article/obshhestvennyj-konstitutsionnyj-sovet-predlozhil-putinu-perenesti-golosovanie-po-popravkam-i-sdelat-ego-alternativnym/).

There is no indication that Putin plans to agree or that the pandemic will stop anytime soon. In the last 24 hours, Russia officially registered 7113 new cases, bringing the cumulative total to 613,994, and 92 new deaths, raising that total to 8605. Both are far lower than in recent weeks (t.me/COVID2019_official/879).

The Russian media are devoting ever more attention to the possibility that a vaccine will be ready for widespread use by the fall (tass.ru/obschestvo/8815535) as well as to reports that placing coronavirus victims in a magnetic field helps to improve their chances for recovery (ria.ru/20200625/1573443109.html).

News about infection declines and spikes and about openings and closings remained mixed. Arkhangelsk hospitals said the number of cases had risen so far that they no longer had enough doctors to treat them (tass.ru/v-strane/8815973). And 30 percent of Russia’s holiday resorts said they would remain closed this year (ura.news/news/1052437889).

But Moscow officials said that theaters will reopen on July 15 if local and regional governments say conditions are right (kommersant.ru/doc/4391372).  Foreign specialists with work contracts will now be allowed to enter Russia again (ura.news/news/1052437923), and Russian Aviation is calling for the restoration of international flights, beginning with CIS countries (ura.news/news/1052437843).

The economic news, however, was uniformly bad. The economic development ministry said that Russians stand to lose 1.3 trillion rubles (20 billion US dollars) in income this year, and almost a trillion more in 2021. Those declines will also hit the pension and medical insurance funds (rbc.ru/economics/25/06/2020/5ef1c34b9a79471d3a3b1697).

What aid the Russian government has promised isn’t getting through in many cases, and Vladimir Putin has ordered an expansion of state supervision and control of its distribution, something many assume will be kept in place even after the pandemic passes (rbc.ru/rbcfreenews/5ef48df29a7947ba5429933b).

The same thing is likely to happen in border regions, with many people living on the Russian side being unable to visit their relatives and friends on the other for months or even years ahead. According to regionalist expert Vadim Shtepa, this is all about control and not about protecting peoples’ health (severreal.org/a/30679952.html).

Meanwhile, FinExpertiza reports that marriages are down across Russia by 40.2 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. Declines are especially great in the North Caucasus Federal District where national traditions involve large gatherings for weddings, something not now allowed. The greatest decline has been in Kabardino-Balkaria were marriages are off by 95.8 percent from a year earlier (akcent.site/mneniya/8495).

Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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