Russian President Putin’s nationalistic ambitions have high authoritarian, aggressive, and imperialist elements. Russia, under his leadership, aims to reassert itself as a strong empire. It continues to be a threat for the neighboring states because of its imperialist ambitions and pursuits of regaining control over all the lost 15 republic nations of the former Soviet Union. His methods to fulfill his imperialist desires have caused many innocent deaths.
At home, he controls the media to propagate post-truth narratives aimed at developing pro-government sentiments to further his authoritarian rule and also to disempower any voice of dissent. He wants to present his image as a strong leader that Russia has never seen before and has several times manipulated the political system in his favor.
His authoritarian style of government has faced criticism several times from foreign nations. Now, he is drawing fresh criticisms from the global community over death figures in Russia related to COVID-19 Infections.
Under his leadership, Russia declared a nation-wide lockdown on 30th March to contain the spread of COVID Infection. Russia decided on easing the’ non-working period’ on 12th May to make economic growth rebound even when it emerged as Europe’s new coronavirus hotspot.
Russian authorities maintain a monopoly on the production of data related to Covid-19 and allow only licensed people to share the data. If someone volunteers to collect and share COVID-19 figures, then the person may face criminal charges for being a provocateur agent.
On 13th May, Moscow’s health officials claimed that Russia is concealing more than 60 percent of deaths by not reporting it in the city’s official virus death figures data. After which Putin started to face criticism from his own citizens for allegedly hiding the truth of official death figures from COVID-19 Virus. Russia is the third nation having the most number of COVID-19 Infection Cases, but the death numbers seem contrived.
Its mortality rate is unexpectedly and, surprisingly, less than 1 percent. Russia, as on Monday, 8th June, has counted 476,658 cases of COVID Infection, but the death number was just 5,971.
Sounds Fishy? Yes, something is seriously wrong. There is a possibility that Russian authorities might be hiding the real situation from its citizens and the global community to present a false image of Russia’s government.
Critics suspect Russia of having fudged the official death numbers to run a state-sponsored agenda of ‘situation being under the control of government’ and ‘All is ok.’ Financial Times has claimed that original death figures can be 70 percent higher than the official figure generated by the government.
While Russian authorities have denied the claims of the allegations and said that they are not counting deaths from comorbidities and have been able to manage the situation well learning from experiences of Western Europe, Duma’s Speaker, Vyacheslav Volodin in one of his early statements said, “We must give thanks to our doctors and our president, who works day and night to save lives.”
The reason for lying could be some political agenda. The possible reason that comes to my mind is the pending constitutional referendum for extending Putin’s term as President in Russia till the year 2036. On 1st June, Putin said that a referendum on Constitutional changes would be held on 1st July. The referendum was earlier scheduled for 22nd April but later postponed due to Covid-19 Pandemic.
This year, Putin’s approval rating has touched the lowest of all years from his rise in power as a popular Russian leader due to the failure of the Russian administration in helping out people in distress from the Pandemic Situation. Putin has been in power for more than two decades now as Russia’s popular leader.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov speaking on approval rating has said, “It’s understandable that in such a difficult situation when people are losing their businesses, people are losing their salaries, people are suffering from staying at home, with their children, people are suffering from not being able to send their children to school. This is the reality we have to deal with”.
Putin obviously has insecurities arising from his approval ratings, and so for forming a good perception in front of people, he might be deliberately manipulating the death figures. Winning in the constitutional referendum is of very much importance to him as it will help him shut the critics who allege that the proposal to put him in power till 2036 is a constitutional coup, and it will lead to giving him indefinite and excessive powers.
A popular vote in favor of the proposal will provide a stipulated legitimacy to his rule till 2036. If he fails to get popular support in the referendum, he might have to leave his office in the year 2024. Though he may behave like a dictator and use military suppression to stay in power if not able to secure votes in his favor in the referendum or he may also fudge the referendum result to fake legitimacy for his extended tenure. But at present, his plan is to gain the genuine confidence of people for the referendum, and it appears that he is playing his cards well.