An indepth look at the recent coronavirus-related political and social developments in Russia by a regular SouthFront reader from Moscow. The previous article of this series: “Russia’s Covid Game Of Elites“.
The Corona crisis is continuing to develop in Russia, or, rather, in the capital Moscow. At summer’s start it became clear the Russian Corona phenomenon has nothing in common with the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and everything to do with the peculiarities of the Russian political system.
European countries and the rest of the world are removing restrictions and returning to normal life. The global scientific community has reached consensus on the danger of the virus, its actual lethality, effective methods of treatment. Only Moscow continues to increase restrictions, taking them to absurd levels.
For example, recently the Mayor of Moscow allowed Muscovites to run at night while wearing masks. It’s not a joke or exaggeration, but rather easily verifiable information. They are also allowed to leave homes for walks according to strict schedule, not more than 3 times a week and not further than 2km away from home. Gloves and masks must be worn everywhere, even when alone in a forest. The system of penalties has been expanded. Also, Moscow residents are forbidden to travel across the city by public and private transport without QR codes that look like concentration camp codes. All of this is openly, and cynically, called an “experiment”.
It’s worth reminding it’s been continuing in Russia for three months! In the public sphere, these new measures are called “relaxing self-isolation”. The previous sept in “relaxing” which took place over a week ago amounted to “allowing volunteers to visit 12 Moscow animal shelters”.
Further more, Sobyani said that until Moscow received the vaccine, it would still have to provide a special regime for self-isolation of citizens. He expects vaccines in the fall and intends to vaccinate all residents of Moscow under pain of administrative fines. The fact that vaccines will not be able to pass a reality check and all the necessary safety tests does not bother him. Otherwise, he perfectly understands possible results of unreliable vaccines exhibition and his actions are motivated by direct intentions.
A month ago, the so-called draft strategy “Moscow Smart City – 2030” was published on the official website of the Moscow administration. Things were called by their proper names. The document declares that “transhumanism” is employed as a concept for the development of the city. The “draft strategy” states, for example that “virtual presence is equivalent to physical presence due to digital technologies”.
With this document, Russian neoliberals declare their literal commitment to the ideas of philosopher transhumanist Harari from Israel, who, while continuing to develop the ideas of behaviorists, de-facto refuses modern man free will. In essence, he equates the models and algorithms of man and animal incentives in a big data world. As a human individual is considered a “consuming man”, a man of modern Western civilization, without faith in God or ideals, but only in his own needs and desires. Ethics and values are derived internally within each individual, rather than from an external source. This, in turn, is achieved through the intellectual and spiritual development (read, degradation) of the individual and society, which should lead to the emergence of a “super-man” (human-god).
Thus, Moscow residents are offered the concept for the city development a model that many call neoliberal fascism. In this regard, the “Moscow team” is ahead of the rest of the world. By now, no other head of the world metropolis allowed to openly or even implicitly declare the desire to create a segregated digital caste society where the masses will serve as fuel for the new aristocracy of super-men.
No factual data or scientific opinion holds sway over mayor team. They are simply ignored, or rather used for cheap propaganda. For example, information that Russia’s mortality rate in was lower than last year is presented as Sobyanin’s personal victory. This is despite Moscow’s growing mortality from illnesses not related to pneumonia. This is due to the majority of hospitals not admitting patients for planned operations and reducing the volume of activity by a factor of two. Hospital wards are empty. Even those specifically designated for COVID-19 are only half-full.
At the same time Sobyanin is getting increased informational support. Almost all Russian liberal and official state media either praise him or keep quiet. The same could be said about foreign MSM. The only exception is probably a single timid publication in DW where the author rather hesitatingly but nevertheless slightly criticizes Moscow.
Mr. Sobyanin is not Russia’s president or prime minister. Therefore, what is happening? Is someone else directing Sobyanin, or is the mayor of Moscow running his own political game? One can assume with a high degree of certainty that Sobyanin is not an independent political player. He is being directed by those forces who direct a good part of the state apparatus in Russia. And that’s probably not Vladimir Putin.
Sobyanin is a man of the system that established itself after USSR. He’s a Yeltsin-era man, a member of the so-called “family”. He became the head of the city of Kogalyma in 1991. In November of 1993, the head of Khanty-Mansi region Aleksandr Filipenko appointed Sobyanin his first deputy. In January 1996 he became the governor of Tyumen region. His entire career consisted of strict adherence to the directives of the system which elevated him.
Let’s remember that when the pandemic began, recommendations on combating it came from a single center. At first that was done in all the countries, but with various degree of alacrity. But the mayor of Moscow demonstrated yet again he knows how to carry out instructions better than anyone. Without neglecting his own interests. It’s enough to say that among the Russian adherents to neo-liberalism, Sobyanin has not been the only one who realized and enthusiastically embraced the possibilities. The head of Rospotrebnadzor, the consumer rights agency, Ms. Popova, is not lagging far behind, either. Her professional specialization is hygiene and ecology.
But it’s difficult to imagine Sobyanin and Popova personally spend entire days thinking up decrees on coronavirus and self-isolation, or that it’s done by their deputies and their suitably competent teams. In order to do it truly effectively, one needs hundreds of specialists in the field, not officials, analyzing the huge volume of statistical and scientific data, making predictions and thinking through the details. One would require a well-oiled system, an institutional framework, which neither Sobyanin nor Popova has. There is no system, but there are detailed recommendations.
All of these recommendations, de-facto orders, are not developed by national Russian agencies but rather come from certain supra-national entities. With COVID-19, it’s WHO. Naturally at that level one can speak of only broad guidance. They are turned into details by foreign consulting. Sobyanin and Popova have McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group, both Anglo-American firms. They have those hundreds of specialists who work out the details of WHO, IMF guidance. Looking at their history and activities, it’s hard not to conclude they are tightly linked to US and UK intelligence. Moreover, they also earn massive salaries from unjustifiably huge government contracts from Moscow mayor’s office and several Russian federal entities. These include Russia’s Central Bank and Sberbank. On the lower national level, these firms’ activities are support by the research infrastructure of the Higher School of Economics.
This amounts to government from without. It affects the entire civil government hierarchy in Russia, from the Government of the Russian Federation, ending with governors and mayors. Only the national security wing remains independent, chiefly the MOD and partly the defense industry. They all understand what is happening, but not all are traitors to the national interest. One can also engage in sabotage by openly ignoring recommendations by arguing local conditions or laws make them impossible. Unlike the great majority of regional leaders, Sobyanin is still trying to do everything “right”, and is closely following his neo-liberal comrades.
Therefore it’s not surprising that Sobyanin’s media support is growing. One can, “and should” criticize Putin, not Sobyanin. Today he is once again predicted to be the next prime minister. Does President Putin need Prime Minister Sobyanin? Of course not, it will mean the end of direct leadership by Putin and the destruction of his power vertical which he’s been building for the last 20 years to counter the rule from without. One is left with the impression that the president understands all of that. But will he have the political force and will to engage the government from without in a decisive battle? That remains an open question.