RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 6, 2020

Today in Russia: A meeting with the Saudis to discuss their oil dispute is delayed until later this week, sending oil prices sliding; The US and Canada discuss tariffs on Saudi and Russian oil; Putin has been “conspicuous by his absence” during the coronavirus crisis; A report suggests that the real incomes of Russians will tumble as a result of coronavirus; Russia insists on holding rehearsals for the 9th of May Victory Day military parade despite COVID-19; and COVID-19 related deaths surpass 50 in Russia.

Last week, oil prices soared after a Donald Trump tweet suggested that Russia and Saudi Arabia were close to reaching an agreement. After initial denials that any deal was in the works, both sides indicated they were willing to talk. However, a meeting scheduled for Monday was postponed to Thursday after the two sides entered into a “war of words” over the weekend, sending Brent crude prices tumbling 12 percent.

Meanwhile, the US and Canada have discussed imposing tariffs on Saudi and Russian crude in an effort to protect their own domestic producers who have been hit hard by the collapse in oil prices. US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that Russia and Saudi Arabia were “destroying” themselves and said that tariffs on oil were “a tool in the toolbox” to solve the oil price woes of US domestic producers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has traditionally been at the forefront of policy in Russia during his long tenure. In the current COVID-19 crisis, however, the Russian President has been “conspicuous by his absence,” creating a leadership vacuum to be filled by regional governors and mayors, and stated that “the regions will make their own decisions” [in Russian] regarding the steps they take against COVID-19.

Reports have suggested that both President Putin has “avoided responsibility,” viewing stay-at-home orders and the possibility of a state of emergency as political unpopular. His spokesperson Dmitry Peskov “constantly redirects reporters to [Prime Minister Mikhail] Mishustin and the government cabinet.” Kommersant noted [in Russian] that COVID-19 has the potential to dramatically reshape Russia’s political dynamics, noting in particular the empowerment of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, but thus far the newspaper does not see “big changes.”

COVID-19-related deaths have reached 50 and cases have climbed to 6343 total reported cases in the country.

A report has suggested that real incomes may drop by 5% [in Russian] as a result of the coronavirus, the largest hit to Russians’ pocketbooks since 2014. However, a poll conducted last week found that most Russians fear the coronavirus [in Russian] more than the economic impacts, and 40% of those polled expressed suspicion of the official tally of confirmed cases and deaths in the country.

Despite coronavirus fears, Russia is pushing ahead with rehearsals for the massive 9th of May Victory Day parade, and has no plans to postpone the event. French President Emmanuel Macron among other world leaders were expected to attend this year’s Victory Day parade. A leaked video purportedly showed some 15,000 troops gathered [original video, in Russian] in rehearsal for the event.

PHOTO: T-34 battle tanks rehearsing on 29 March 2020. (Russian Defense Ministry/Tass)