Vladimir Putin has boasted of Russia’s success in handling the coronavirus pandemic and attacked America’s response – despite his country having the third-largest outbreak in the world.
Putin said in an interview with state TV: ‘We are exiting the coronavirus situation steadily with minimal losses, God willing, in the States it isn’t happening that way.’
The Russian president savaged the US for putting ‘party interests higher than the interests of the people’ and accused Donald Trump of a lack of leadership.
Russia has 528,964 virus cases but only 6,948 deaths, while the US has piled up more than two million infections and more than 100,000 deaths.
However, there are doubts about the accuracy of Russia’s figures and fears that the true death toll could be far higher.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, pictured giving a speech on Friday, has attacked the US response to the coronavirus pandemic
Russia’s death rate is only 1.3 fatalities per 100 confirmed cases, a far lower rate than in the US, UK or Italy.
Putin’s government has now begun giving fuller information on deaths, including cases where Covid-19 was never confirmed by tests.
Under this new method, Russia said 2,712 people had died from coronavirus in April – – more than double the 1,056 deaths which were announced during the month.
Russia’s daily numbers have fallen from their peak but the country is still regularly adding more than 8,000 new infections per day.
The current total of 528,964 infections is second only to the United States and Brazil, which has more than 850,000 cases.
However, the death toll of 6,948 is far lower down the table, well below the UK, Italy, France and even the relatively successful Germany.
Moscow accounts for more than 200,000 of Russia’s cases, while the region which surrounds the capital has seen another 49,000.
Nonetheless, regions are gradually lifting lockdown restrictions and Moscow has reopened non-essential shops and hairdressers.
Attacking the US response, Putin told state television that the coronavirus pandemic had exposed ‘deep-seated internal crises’ in the US.
He criticised a lack of US leadership, saying that ‘the president says we need to do such-and-such but the governors somewhere tell him where to go.’
‘I think the problem is that group interests, party interests are put higher than the interests of the whole of society and the interests of the people,’ he said.
Medical workers wearing full protective suits and goggles attend to a suspected coronavirus patient at a hospital in Moscow last week
Russian National Guard officers wearing masks donate blood at the Transfusion Unit of a Moscow hospital yesterday
In Russia, he argued, the government and regional leaders work ‘as one team’ and do not differ from the official line.
‘I doubt anyone in the government or the regions would say ‘we’re not going to do what the government says, what the president says, we think it’s wrong,’ Putin said of the virus strategy.
When the northern Caucasus region of Dagestan suffered particularly hard from the virus, ‘the whole country rallied to help’, he claimed.
Putin also criticised anti-racism protests in the United States for sparking crowd violence, in his first comments on the issue.
‘If this fight for natural rights, legal rights, turns into mayhem and rioting, I see nothing good for the country,’ the Russian leader said in his televised broadcast.
He stressed he supported black Americans’ struggle for equality, calling this ‘a longstanding problem of the United States’.
‘We always in the USSR and in modern Russia had a lot of sympathy for the struggle of African-Americans for their natural rights,’ he insisted.
But Putin added that ‘when – even after crimes are committed – this takes on elements of radical nationalism and extremism, nothing good will come of this.’
Putin also described the protests as a sign of ‘deep-seated internal crises’ in the United States, linking the unrest to the coronavirus pandemic, which he said ‘has shone a spotlight on general problems’.
He said he nevertheless expected that the ‘fundamental basis of American democracy will allow the country to escape this series of crisis events’.
The interview was billed as Putin’s first since the start of the pandemic, but it is not clear when it was recorded.