Russia’s Coronavirus Deaths Pass 11K

Russia attributes its lower virus death figures to mass testing which has identified many cases with mild or no coronavirus symptoms.

The Health Ministry is now adjusting how it reports numbers to include all deaths believed to be related to the virus even if the direct cause of death was another condition or the patient tested negative.

Moscow lifted restrictions including compulsory travel passes on June 8, a move welcomed by residents who rushed out to enjoy the streets and parks.

Many other regions lifted lockdown restrictions ahead of a July 1 national vote despite the pandemic.

Critics have cast doubt on Russia’s low official mortality rate and accused authorities of under-reporting to play down the scale of the crisis.

Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, a liberal politician known for his outspoken comments, said Russia’s health system requires more funds and modernization in many regions.

“Medicine is significantly underfunded even according to the current norms and also it needs a serious overhaul,” Kudrin, who heads the Audit Chamber that examines government spending, said in an interview with the state-run TASS state news agency.

“We will carry out a check and show these figures,” he added.

Nevertheless the economist said Russia “is not doing a bad job with the pandemic,” crediting the role of the military, which has built emergency facilities.

Russia Detains Jehovah’s Witness ‘Elders’

Four Jehovah’s Witnesses have been detained on charges of extremism in southern Russia, investigators said Thursday amid an ongoing crackdown against the religious organization.

The unnamed worshippers aged between 38 and 47 were alleged to be the “elders” of a group that has continued to meet in the southern city of Astrakhan since Russia banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017.

“Not wanting to be exposed by law enforcement, the suspects used secrecy measures, including using video conferencing,” Russia’s Investigative Committee said.

Investigators, police officers and FSB security service officers carried out 27 searches and seized personal belongings as part of the investigation.

Three of the suspects were sent to pre-trial and the fourth is under house arrest.

They could face up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of organizing the activities of an extremist group.

The Astrakhan region’s chief investigator took the Jehovah’s Witnesses extremism case under his personal control.

Russia outlawed the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an “extremist” organization in April 2017 and banned its estimated 400 branches across the country. Russian courts have since issued a series of lengthy sentences against believers, including several European Union nationals.

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