MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he will take new measures of social support and business incentives by praising the nation’s response to the coronavirus on the eve of a vote that could extend his term until 2036.
In a televised address to the nation, Putin stated that Russia has successfully passed the most dangerous phase of the outbreak.
“Today we have shown that we are capable of accomplishing the most difficult tasks,” he said.
Putin said that the early application of strict border health controls, sanitary restrictions and widespread quarantine allowed the country to gain time and curb contagion. In late March, Putin decreed a partial closure of the economy that lasted until May 12, and most regions imposed strict quarantines.
“We save time and achieve the main thing, to protect human lives,” he added.
Russia has registered almost 600,000 cases of the coronavirus, the third world number after the United States and Brazil. However, the figure of 8,359 deaths is significantly less than that of many countries with a smaller population.
Given the relatively low death rate, some argue that Russia has altered statistics for political purposes. The authorities have strongly rejected these allegations and maintain that strong prophylactic measures and efficient treatment have reduced the number of deaths.
Putin stressed that the coronavirus is not yet defeated and urged the Russians to remain cautious until there is a vaccine. He added that Russia has applied diagnostic tests to 17 million people, which has helped detect asymptomatic carriers and contain the spread.
When the first signs of a contagion slowdown appeared, Putin was quick to call a vote on constitutional reform for July 1. The amendments include a clause that would allow him to run for two additional six-year terms starting in 2024, when his current term ends. The original date of the plebiscite was April, but the pandemic forced to postpone it.