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The Real Russia. Today. Changing how Russia counts COVID-19 cases

Source: Meduza

Thursday, April 9, 2020

  • Hundreds of Russians descended from the mountains in Nepal only to end up in coronavirus isolation. Now they can't get home.
  • How a Pentecostal church became the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in Bryansk, Russia
  • Vladimir Putin’s spokesman was spotted wearing a pouch of chlorine dioxide on his lapel to ward off disease. After learning more about the product, he ditched it.
  • 64-year-old Gulag historian Yury Dmitriev was acquitted on child porn charges in 2018, but he's still in jail on appeal. Now, his attorney fears COVID-19 could be the end.
  • News briefs: clinical symptoms, tracking tourists, tailing Badanin, and counting pneumonia patients


As of April 9, the number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Russia was 10,131, with 1,459 new cases recorded in the past day. Another 13 people reportedly died from the disease, raising Russia’s total number of fatalities caused by COVID-19 to 76. 

🥾 Six days to Kathmandu

The spread of coronavirus has stranded more than 100 Russian nationals in Nepal. For the most part, these people are tourists on backpacking trips who hoped to climb to Everest Base Camp. Russia has no immediate plans to bring these citizens home and some are now running low on funds to pay for accommodations and food, without any idea when they might be allowed to leave. Meduza spoke to a handful of the Russians now stuck in Kathmandu.

✝️ From the banya to death threats

As of April 9, 97 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Russia’s Bryansk region, according to the local government task force for the epidemic. That regional case count has nearly doubled in the last 24 hours, with 40 new cases recorded on April 8. All of the area’s patients are undergoing treatment in an isolated facility at Bryansk Regional Hospital No. 1. The COVID-19 task force reported that all 97 are in satisfactory condition and are receiving the care they need.

More than half of those infected belong to the Revival Evangelical Christian Church or have been in contact with members of the congregation. On April 3, a Bryansk court suspended the church’s work for 90 days and ordered its building to be sealed off. Two members of Revival’s congregation have been charged with violating self-isolation rules. Among those infected is Revival’s pastor, Mikhail Biryukov. The pastor has argued that the mother and son facing criminal charges do not belong to his church. Following news stories on the outbreak, church members have started receiving threats.

☣️ The Kremlin’s virus blocker

During Vladimir Putin’s televised video conference with Russia’s governors on April 8, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was spotted wearing an unusual green badge pinned to his jacket lapel. The chestwear turned out to be something called a “virus blocker” — a gadget that supposedly helps shield against foreign pathogens. According to product descriptions published on the online marketplace, these badges are sold as an “individual disinfectant device against bacteria and viruses.” 

On April 9, the Russian company “Innocolloid,” which manufactures a similar “virus blocker,” told the website Open Media that it is shutting down production of its product “for ethical reasons.” That same day, the St. Petersburg Epidemiology and Microbiology Pasteur Institute publicly denied endorsing the effectiveness of virus blockers. While acknowledging that its researchers have tested blockers against influenza and adenoviruses, the institute says it’s issued “no certificates confirming the product’s antiviral activity” and in fact lacks this authority. “In light of these facts, we consider it inappropriate to mention the institute in the commercial use and advertising of the “blocker” product developed by ITMO University and produced by the small innovation enterprise “Innocolloid.”

Later on April 9, just a day after he attracted so much attention to Air Doctor and the “blocker” industry, Dmitry Peskov attended a Russian Security Council meeting, now without his antiviral badge.

Coronaviral news briefs

The end of Yury Dmitriev? ⚖️

In April 2018, historian Yury Dmitriev was acquitted on two counts: sexual misconduct toward a minor and the production of child pornography. Dmitriev leads the Karelian branch of the human rights organization “Memorial,” whose activists and scholars have faced police persecution across Russia; he has also worked to discover the locations of multiple mass graves made during the Stalinist Terror. In 2018, Dmitriev was accused of abusing his adopted daughter Natalia, who was 12 years old at the time. The historian, now 64 years old, said he periodically took pictures of his daughter to document her good health after her teachers mistook ink stains on her skin for bruises.

Even though Dmitriev was ultimately found not guilty, Karelia’s regional Supreme Court overturned that verdict in June 2018, ultimately sending Dmitriev back to a pretrial detention center where he still remains today. Now, activists who have advocated in the past two years for Dmitriev to be transferred to house arrest worry that he may become even more vulnerable as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads through Russia’s penitentiary system. Journalist Katerina Gordeeva spoke with Dmitriev’s attorney, Viktor Anufriyev, about this new development in the historian’s case and what the defense is doing to respond.

Meanwhile, beyond the world of coronavirus happenings

This day in history: 82 years ago, on April 9, 1938, Viktor Chernomyrdin was born in the USSR's Orenburg region. He died in November 2010 at the age of 72. A key figure in Russian politics in the 1990s, Chernomyrdin was known for his language style, which contained numerous malapropisms and syntactic errors. Many of his sayings became aphorisms and idioms in the Russian language, such as: “We wanted the best, but it turned out like always.”

Yours, Meduza

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