Putin Acknowledges That Russia's Coronavirus Outbreak Is Worsening Russian President Vladimir Putin said "everything is under control" early in the coronavirus pandemic. As the number of Russian victims increases, his attitude appears to be changing.
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Putin Acknowledges That Russia's Coronavirus Outbreak Is Worsening

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Putin Acknowledges That Russia's Coronavirus Outbreak Is Worsening

Putin Acknowledges That Russia's Coronavirus Outbreak Is Worsening

Putin Acknowledges That Russia's Coronavirus Outbreak Is Worsening

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/834460111/834460121" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Russian President Vladimir Putin said "everything is under control" early in the coronavirus pandemic. As the number of Russian victims increases, his attitude appears to be changing.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted that everything was under control. Now he admits Russia is in trouble, as the country copes with the rising number of coronavirus infections. Today the number surged past the 20,000 mark. NPR's Charles Maynes reports from the epicenter of the outbreak - Moscow.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: It was just three weeks ago that Vladimir Putin dressed in a biohazard suit and toured Moscow's new coronavirus infection ward.

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MAYNES: After the photo op - and out of his protective gear - Putin chatted and shook hands with staff.

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: He praised their efforts, saying things were going like clockwork, and the center was an example of how treatment should be organized.

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PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: Initially, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe, Russia remained largely unscathed, with few cases and seemingly fewer worries. Fast forward to this week, and Putin is now sounding the alarm.

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PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: The situation is changing practically every day and not for the better, said Putin in a meeting with his coronavirus task force; and the next few weeks would be decisive.

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PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: For some exasperated Moscow ambulance drivers, that moment may have already arrived. Over the weekend, they faced long lines. Some had to wait up to 15 hours just to deliver their patients to local COVID-19 wards. The city has been on lockdown for two weeks, but cases continue to rise, and there are doubts about the reliability of those numbers. Critics point to a sudden spike in the number of Russians suffering from pneumonia that may disguise the true impact of the coronavirus.

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ANASTASIA VASILYEVA: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: Dr. Anastasia Vasilyeva of the medical group Doctors' Alliance says the numbers have been intentionally manipulated for political purposes. The Kremlin had been planning to hold a constitutional referendum next week, whose key provision would allow Putin to remain in power until the year 2036. But the coronavirus has outpaced Kremlin intrigue. And ultimately, Putin was forced to postpone the vote.

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MAYNES: And even the leader's photo op at the Moscow infection ward has come back to haunt him. The chief doctor who met with Putin has since tested positive for COVID-19. The Kremlin says Putin remains healthy.

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PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: But he now also works remotely, just like the rest of us.

Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.

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