In less than an hour, prominent Russian lawmaker Andrei Klishas questioned the legality of the Sobyanin order, arguing that only federal authorities could impose such restrictions. While some state media said there was no curfew for the Moscow region, a police video announcing one from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. posted on social media.
He closed a week of mixed messages from the Russian authorities on the coronavirus pandemic because President Vladimir Putin has delegated the enactment of severe measures to others.
“It is a natural separation of the responsibilities of Putin, who is the tsar and the father of the nation, who can only bring good news,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, president of the domestic political program and Russian political institutions at Carnegie Moscow Center.
For a country spanning two continents ravaged by the pandemic, Russia has a relatively small number of confirmed cases: 1,836. But the number of new cases per day has continued to increase, the 302 new diagnoses on Monday reaching a new peak.
On Wednesday, in a televised speech, Putin addressed the country’s response to the coronaviruses, postpone a vote on constitutional amendments and declare paid vacation this week for the whole country. But he stopped mandatory business closings or home orders, prompting many Russians to book a trip to the seaside town of Sochi.
This led to several clarifications from various officials, but not from Putin. Sobyanin has ordered the closure of all parks, restaurants, spas and other non-essential businesses for the week – a restriction that Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin then extended to the entire country – while presidential spokesperson Dmitri Peskov has said Russians should work or study remotely rather than treating the week as a vacation.
A day after Putin’s speech, Peskov also said: “We have no epidemic” in Russia, undermining Sobyanin’s harsh words. Then, during a televised meeting with his envoys on Monday afternoon, Putin supported Sobyanin in his first public comments on quarantine.
“It is necessary to take all necessary measures in this situation, even if they may seem excessive for Russia today,” said the president.
Analysts said the disjointed and often contradictory messages from government officials on the coronavirus pandemic were unusual, given the generally unified front.
“I think the problem is that within the Kremlin, in a way, they have gotten so used to the idea that they can in some ways define the narrative and that the narrative will shape reality, “said Mark Galeotti, senior partner at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank in London. “Of course, it’s a different way of doing it. It is in fact a reality which must shape the story. “
In one poll conducted earlier this month through the independent Levada Center, only 16 percent of Russian respondents said they had “full” confidence in the country’s official coronavirus data. Even Sobyanin doesn’t trust it; he told Putin at a televised meeting that the number of actual cases was probably “considerably” higher because there were not enough tests.
About two-thirds of the confirmed coronavirus cases in Russia are in Moscow, so Sobyanin, a technocrat who was appointed to lead the coronavirus task force in Russia, has assumed the “bad cop” burden for Putin, a said Galeotti. Tatiana Stanovaya, head of think tank R. Politik, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Sobyanin “turned out to be the greatest European in Russia” by imposing strict measures similar to those of France, the United ‘Italy and Spain.
Even Mishustin apparently followed Sobyanin’s example. A pattern emerged last week: Sobyanin first announced restrictions for Moscow and Mishustin, then applied them to the rest of the country.
But while Putin was largely – and visibly – silent, analysts said there was no doubt that he had the last word behind the scenes. If the coronavirus pandemic becomes catastrophic in Russia, Putin will not be able to blame Sobyanin alone, said Carnegie’s Kolesnikov., pointing to Putin’s already dropping approval ratings. Levada Center March poll takes final note at 63 percent, approaching its 2013 low of 61%.
“Everyone understands that this is the same power,” said Kolesnikov. “I think an average Russian citizen does not separate Putin from Mishustin or Mishustin from Sobyanin. Nevertheless, Putin is the main person responsible. “