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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 7, 2020

Today in Russia: The US designates a Russian white supremacist group a terrorist organization; COVID-19 cases rise sharply; Chechnya’s border closure sparks a rebuke from the Prime Minister; Russia resumes repatriation flights just days after announcing a complete border closure; “Cautious optimism” for the Russian economy?; Domestic flights in Russia plummet 90 percent; President Putin inquires about sending people back to work early; and banks restrict lending to employees of hard-hit sectors of the economy.

The Trump Administration labeled the Russian Imperial Movement, a white supremacist group, as a terrorist organization. It is the first time that the United States has placed a group of this nature on its terrorism list, with the US State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales calling the move “unprecedented.”

After weeks of lax measures in response to COVID-19, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has implemented extreme measures in his region, ordering the Chechen border closed and voicing approval for violent police measures to enforce quarantine regulations. However, Kadyrov’s border closures has drawn the ire of the federal government, with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin proclaiming, “I want to reiterate for regional leaders: do not confuse regional powers with federal powers.”

After banning all international flights into or out of the country last Friday, Russia has resumed repatriation flights after more than 25,000 of its citizens contacted the government pleading for assistance.

Russia saw a sharp rise in coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, rising by more than 1,000 cases. The total number of confirmed cases in the country has risen to 7,497 with 58 deaths. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin asked virologists about the possibility of sending people back to work earlier than the planned April 30, stating, “It’s very important [for me] to hear your opinion, whether you think it will be possible to cut down the number of days when many people in this country aren’t working — is this possible in the near future; what your near-term prognoses are.”

Some economists are expressing “cautious optimism” [in Russian] about Russia’s economic health during the crisis, with the ruble rising slightly against the dollar amidst hope that oil prices will stabilize with the upcoming OPEC+1 meeting scheduled for this Thursday.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported that domestic flights in Russia have plummeted by 90 percent. The Russian Central Bank governor warned banks not to “capitalize” on regulatory easing in response to the coronavirus, and Vedomosti reports that banks have begun restricting credit to employees [in Russian] of industries hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak, including those working in the tourism, transport, sports, entertainment, events, education, and hospitality sectors.

PHOTO: An empty metro station in Moscow as the city ramps up its fight against the coronavirus. (Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP)