As virus outbreaks, Putin prompts Russians to get a (Russian) vaccine

MOSCOW – President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday urged Russians to vaccinate against the coronavirus – his most comprehensive comment to date on the matter – as his country included vicious new wave of disease.

Speaking on his annual television call-in show, Mr Putin spent the opening half hour trying to persuade Russians to get one of four home-made shots of the country. It was the latest example of a marked change in tone about the pandemic from Russian officials, who for months did little to prompt vaccination-warranted publics but are now starting to make vaccinations mandatory for some groups. .

“It’s dangerous, it’s dangerous for your life,” Mr Putin said of COVID-19. “The vaccine is not dangerous.”

Mr Putin said only 23 million Russians, or about 15 percent of the population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This year’s poll by the Independent Levada Center showed that Some 60 percent of Russians did not want to be vaccinated. Analysts attributed the Russians’ hesitation to widespread mistrust of the authorities, combined with a flurry of state television reports that mostly described the coronavirus as not defeated or too dangerous to begin with.

Mr Putin revealed that he himself had received the Sputnik V vaccine this year – the Kremlin had previously declined to specify which shot he was given – and that he experienced a brief fever after the second dose . But his message remained muddled, as he questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in general.

“Thank God we haven’t had the same tragic situation after vaccination as after using AstraZeneca or Pfizer,” Mr Putin said.

Mr Putin spoke only as his handling of the pandemic – long touted by the Kremlin as superior to the approach taken in the West – threatened to turn into a major debacle. While Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is widely seen safe and effective, majority of Russians have been avoiding it and other available, home-made shots. As a result, the country is suffering from a new wave of pandemics, in which the delta version of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly.

Russia’s largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, are reporting more than Recent 100 deaths per day, setting records; Across the country, the number of new cases reported per day has more than doubled in recent weeks to more than 20,000, with 669 deaths reported on Wednesday. official toll is There is likely to be a significant undercount.

Regional authorities in Moscow and elsewhere have protested the lockdown. But, almost certainly with Mr. Putin’s blessing, he has made vaccinations mandatory for large groups of people, such as service workers, in his areas. This has sparked outcry from many Kremlin critics and supporters alike.

“I do not support compulsory vaccination, and continue to take this approach,” Mr Putin said, placing the responsibility for such orders on regional officials.

The renewed escalation of the coronavirus could derail the Kremlin’s message of competence compared to Western laxity as parliamentary elections approach in September. Mr Putin’s most vocal opponents have already been jailed, exiled or barred from running, but apparent electoral fraud or poor performance by his governing United Russia party still undermine the president’s domestic authority. Can do.

Mr. Putin’s annual call-in show, First broadcast in 2001It has formed the basis of how he has communicated with the Russians during his two decades of rule. State news media reported that more than a million questions were submitted prematurely by phone, text message and smartphone apps. They covered things like the cost of airline tickets, building regulations problems, illegal logging, and high food prices.

The lengthy session gives the president a chance to show that he is in charge, ordering the details of a plethora of issues and is concerned about the welfare of regular Russians. This allows him to blame the problems on lower level officials while casting himself as the savior of the common citizen.

But it has also underscored the weakness of the top-down system of governance, which Mr Putin presides. It seems that in order to solve even the smallest issues, Mr. Putin sometimes needs to get involved.

For example, after a sheep breeder in the Caucasus Republic of Ingushetia told Mr Putin that he was having trouble finding a plot of land to rent, the president pledged to speak to the region’s governor.

“Sheep breeding is very important,” Mr Putin said. “People who do this deserve support.”

Mr Putin spent most of the show focused on domestic issues. He rubbished online rumors of new fees for farmers, saying that “no one is planning to tax livestock.” A smartphone video of a woman from a grocery store showed high prices for carrots and other staples. Mr Putin resolved to address the matter, noting that it was a global problem and that “the vegetable harvest is soon, and I expect it to have an impact on prices.”

But when asked about geopolitics, Mr. Putin was most excited. In response to a question about Ukraine, he reiterated his frequently stated argument that Russians and Ukrainians were “one people” and that the country had become a puppet of the United States. He rejected another viewer’s view that The incident around a British warship last week Approaching Crimea could have touched off the Third World War.

But he warned that any attempt by the West to build a military presence in Ukraine, Russia’s biggest western neighbour, would pose an existential threat.

“This creates significant problems for us in the security sector,” Mr. Putin said. “It touches on the interests of the Russian Federation and the survival of the Russian people.”

During the nearly four-hour show, some questions came in the form of live phone calls or video calls, while others were pre-recorded videos. Mr Putin sometimes appeared confused as to whether any questions were being asked in real time while talking back on some of the recorded videos. After some technical difficulties in about two hours, the hosts stated that the show was coming under a denial-of-service cyberattack.

“everybody talks Russian hacker,” quipped one of the hosts.

Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting.

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