In an exclusive interview with CNN, Peskov said that the virus did not represent a domestic political crisis for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that the Russian health care system saved lives, even though it was under great effort.
A pandemic is usually too high a rating for Putin. An independent Levada-Center interviewer noted that the Russian president’s ratings fell below 60% in April and May, which has not been seen since he took office two decades ago – a decline that Peskov rejected.
“We are worried about this pandemic and we are worried about the impact of this pandemic on the country’s economy,” Peskov said on Tuesday. “But President Putin has stated several times that he is not interested in his personal assessments, that in politics if you are a true statesman you should not think about your assessments – because if you think about your assessments, you will not be able to make responsible decisions.”
Back in March, Putin said the spread of the virus through Russia was “under control.” But within weeks, Russia had the second-largest number of coronavirus infections in the world – and the government was forced to postpone the referendum.
Asked what went wrong in Russia’s attempts to suppress the virus, Peskov said: “Nothing went wrong except the coronavirus itself. First, we have several cities with high density. And those cities in the world are the cities that are most infected. That was the case with Moscow. ”
He also suggested that the high number of cases in the country reflects a high level of testing. “Our country uses the largest possible amount of coronavirus tests. And the more you test, the more you will detect,” he said.
Peskov attributes the low mortality rate to “effective” healthcare. “Have you ever considered the possibility of making the Russian healthcare system more efficient?” he said, adding that the public health system “provided an opportunity for more people to stay alive.”
So far, just over a hundred medical staff have died, according to official figures. Health workers, skeptical of government figures, put together their unofficial number of colleagues who died fighting the pandemic: more than 300. Even official reports in state media admit that thousands of medical workers are now infected.
Peskov expressed hope that the U.S. presidential election in 2020 could be an opening for improved U.S.-Russian relations and that the coronavirus would spur a global debate on resolving future health crises. “We will all have to sit down and think about the lessons from this pandemic for each individual country … [and] for the whole world, ”he said.
He spoke to CNN on the day Moscow officially lifted the coronavirus lock, allowing men to walk unhindered outside their homes and travel around the city without electronic passes. And while thousands of new cases are being recorded every day, this move towards normalcy will finally allow the Kremlin’s plans to move forward: The government has postponed a July 1 referendum on constitutional changes.