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In Russia’s pandemic struggles, even Putin couldn’t speed bonuses to health workers

By Robyn Dixon 

May 27, 2020 at 6:32 p.m. GMT+2

One way to stay under the radar could be to understate cases or deaths, analysts say. With Putin’s promised bonuses, the instinct by regional leaders — ingrained over decades — was to minimize payments, fearing trouble from Moscow if they spent too much or paid people not entitled to bonuses.

Some regional officials have even counted the minutes that medical workers spent with infected patients.

“For Putin it’s a very uncomfortable position,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, director of Moscow political think tank R. Politik. “In fact, he turns out to be dependent on regional governors. Putin asks for something, and the government is not able to implement it in the way Putin intended.”

“For example, in the Caucasus region it’s just a total mess,” she added. “The numbers they give are like a fake, nothing to do with reality. In other regions, they’re not very careful with statistics and with these tests.”

Stanovaya said regional officials interpreted the bonus payment order as narrowly as they could: Regional governors are under pressure to prove they are doing a good job fighting the virus, so they tend to minimize the reported infections.

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