The Russian government’s response to COVID-19 has been one of contradictions and confusion. Yet to announce a nation-wide lockdown, President Vladimir Putin has shifted responsibility, delegated decision making and averted public attention away from himself. Instead, regional leaders and governors have been left to tackle the crisis with new, temporary powers while central government effectively takes a back seat.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Russia now exceeds 100,000 with just over 1,000 deaths. The rapid spread of the virus is perhaps the biggest challenge Russia has faced in the post-soviet era. Concerns over public health, the economy as well as Putin’s leadership have all been raised, drawing attention to some of the underlying fragilities in the Russian system.