(RFE/RL) There he was, riding down the escalator at one of Russia’s leading infectious disease hospitals alongside Vladimir Putin as the president toured the facility and its preparations for the coronavirus epidemic.
There he was, announcing sweeping new restrictions for Russia’s capital on March 30, catching Moscow’s 12 million residents off-guard and sending them scrambling to run errands before being all but confined to their homes. […]
It made sense that Sobyanin would become the face of the government’s coronavirus response, given Moscow’s importance, politically and economically, said Vladimir Gelman, a political scientist and professor at the European University at St. Petersburg and the University of Helsinki.
Gelman drew a parallel to the United States, where the governor of New York State — the hardest-hit U.S. state — has taken a prominent public role in the coronavirus response.
But Gelman said there appeared to be a deeper political calculation at work here: a way to insulate Putin, and the Kremlin, from potentially unpopular moves. […]
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