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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 14, 2020

Today in Russia: COVID-19 spreads and worsens; Putin sees oil deal as chance to improve rapport with Trump; China offering rewards for catching illegal border-crossers from Russia; Tax write-offs for PPE; Funding for medical workers; Foreign investment grinds to a halt; Sobyanin warned that illegal protests and starvation could result during COVID-19; 12 percent of Muscovites have lost their jobs already; The story of a confident COVID-19 free Russia has quickly shifted.

COVID-19 has spread further across Russia and cases have climbed above 21,000, with hospitals becoming vectors for the virus. President Vladimir Putin warned that the population should be prepared “the most complicated and extraordinary” scenarios.

Russia and Saudi Arabia’s landmark deal with its OPEC+ partners may have a beneficial side-effect: increased rapport between President Putin and US President Donald Trump. The Financial Times writes, “for the Kremlin it [the oil deal] also offers a rare opportunity to portray itself as a critical partner of the US and improve ties with the Trump administration, which have been battered by allegations of Russian meddling in US elections and clashes over everything from European gas supplies to nuclear missile testing.”

China’s border province of Heilongjiang has begun offering rewards up to CNY 5,000 for citizens who capture illegal border crossers from Russia, as the country fears an increase in imported cases from its neighbor.

Russia’s State Duma passed legislation [in Russian] which will allow businesses to use purchases of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as a tax write-off.

45.6 billion rubles ($619 million) will be allocated to provide hazard pay for medical workers during the COVID-19 epidemic.

The Communist Party of Russia warned [in Russian] Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin that mass protests and starvation of sections of the city’s population could result if Muscovites are not extended more financial assistance during the lockdown and epidemic. 12 percent of Muscovites [in Russian] have already lost their jobs, according to a survey [in Russian] from the Romir Research Center.

The Central Bank reported that foreign investment in Russian companies fell by a staggering 98 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter the previous year, dropping to $.2 billion from $10.3 billion in Q1 of 2019.

Less than a month ago, Russia was sending PPE and aid to other countries battling the coronavirus outbreak and there was talk that Russia had taken the necessary precautions to stop the outbreak within its borders. All that has changed now, the New York Times writes.

PHOTO: An empty Red Square in Moscow. (Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)