Spoiler: President Biden is right. Putin is a killer. He is a killer in more ways than we think of. Putin has, by the use of proxies, killed more than 14 000 Ukrainians, tens of thousands of Syrians, Russian journalists and critics. He has also killed thousands of Russians by lying and neglecting the needs of Russians.
Putin and the Kremlin lie to Russians to hide the poor state the country is in. They lie about countries in the “West” aiming to portray them as equally bad. The lies and the “vertical power” design of the Russian state apparatus is costing Russian lives. The health care system is in decay and Russians are afraid to get vaccinated because they do not trust their government which has spewed out lies daily since Putin became president.
The Kremlin regarded the corona crisis an opportunity. It became a front in the propaganda war. Kremlin sent useless ventilators to the USA and an equally useless equipment to Italy. The Kremlin early on declared victory in the vaccine development when it approved Sputnik V even though it had not passed Phase 3 in the vaccine development process. The Kremlin triumphantly offered its vaccine to other countries.
Putin’s lies to Russians…
But Kremlin did not only boast about its success, but it also had its media spew out lies about the shortcomings of the countries in the West. Disinformation and lies about the problems with the West’s vaccines, death tolls, failing health care and welfare systems were spewed out around the clock.
The main target for these lies is the Russian people. The lies have been pouring over the Russians ever since Putin became president and took control of the media. Year after year, Russians have been fed with propaganda and c.f. Figure 1.
Figure 1. Putin lies to Russians
Source: Varieties of Democracy https://www.v-dem.net/en/ Note: The indicator “Government dissemination of false information domestic” ranges from 0 to 4. 0 indicates that the government lies extremely often and 4 the government never lies. Putin lies often on key political issues.
As seen above, the lies accelerated around the time of the Bolotnaya protests and the beginning of the Russian war against Ukraine.
…made them refuse to vaccinate themselves…
The Kremlin’s lies have backfired. In the beginning, Russian media ran stories that told the Russians that the Corona crisis was a hoax, the virus was created in American labs, the vaccines were part of Bill Gates’s plan to inject chips in people, or that it wasn’t dangerous and governments in the West were stupid to impose lockdowns and restrictions. Messages like “Look at us! We have no problems” were triumphantly declared in the media.
But after 20 years of Putin’s reign with a media which has spread lies, disinformation and conspiracy theories, the Russian people do not trust their government and its agencies. The Russian journalist Liza Aleksandrova-Zorina has closely been watching how the Kremlin’s lies have ricochetted and sowed distrust in the Kremlin itself among Russians. Some Russians believe the conspiracy theories mentioned above, others do not trust the vaccine and some do not understand why they should get vaccinated when the media have told them that it was a propaganda hoax from the West.
And this is why Russians won’t take the jab. Putin announced that Sputnik V was developed and approved already in April. That’s nine months between the approval and the launch of mass vaccination. Russians are hesitating to take the jabs. The Russian share of the population that has been vaccinated is shockingly low, only three percent of the population is vaccinated, c.f. Figure 2.
Figure 2. Covid-19 vaccinations per 100 people.
In meetings with his media, Putin routinely brags about how much better and faster Russia mobilised its response to COVID-19. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think any of the reporters asked him why the “mass vaccination” wasn’t launched before January; nine months after Putin declared that Russia had developed a vaccine.
So, when Putin boosts about how the Russian healthcare in the country stepped up to tackle the COVID-19, we know it’s a lie because the healthcare system and the hospitals are on the verge to be declared disaster zones. Which is why we could witness chaotic scenes in- and outside Russian hospitals when the first wave hit Russia and Putin hid in his bunker and gave Russia’s regions responsibilities to deal with the situation. That would have worked better if he hadn’t robbed them of most of their financial resources with no real powers to address the problem. In the city of Barnaul, patients who died in covid-19 were put in plastic bags in a hospital.
…and the poorly governed Russia….
Putin knows that the health care system, especially in the regions, is in decay. The vaccination failure and the failing health care system are symptoms of a badly governed country. In fact, the Quality of Government in Middle-Income Russia is comparable to Low-Income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other former Soviet republics, c.f. Figure 3.
Figure 3. Quality of Government in the World 2020.
Source: PRS Group, others (2021). “International Country Risk Guide.” And “Teorell J, Dahlberg S, Holmberg S, Rothstein N, Alvarado N and Axelsson S (2020). The Quality of Government Standard Dataset, version Jan18. University of Gothenburg: The Quality of Government Institute, http://www.qog.pol.gu.se doi:10.18157/QoGStdJan20″
… is the reason why Russia’s excess deaths is higher than in the rest of Europe
Even though the Russian statistic agency, Rosstat, finally has admitted that the previous released statistics on covid-19 related deaths understated the Russian excess deaths, see here, here, and here, Putin continues to lie in a meeting with his media megaphones.
And why hasn’t Putin taken the jab himself? Maybe he’s afraid of the side effects.