Moscow Mayor Orders Kids Back to School

All Moscow schoolchildren will return to in-person classes next Monday after coronavirus cases stabilized over the New Year holidays, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced Thursday.

He said all other restrictions that were due to expire Friday — including self-isolation for those 65 and older and remote work for 30% of employees — have been extended for one week until Jan. 21 to see if infections rebound or continue on a downward trajectory.

“The kids are tired of sitting at home,” Sobyanin wrote on his website, ordering students in grades 1-11 to return to class Jan. 18 and unblocking their public-transport discount cards.

He warned that a single Covid-19 case would send an entire class back to distance learning. City universities and colleges will continue remote learning, the mayor added.

Sobyanin said he will consider easing other restrictions if epidemiologists determine that infection rates have stabilized at current levels, currently around 5,000 cases fewer than the peak of nearly 30,000 on Christmas Eve nationwide.

Russia has confirmed the world’s fourth-highest number of Covid-19 infections at nearly 3.5 million cases and the third-highest death toll of more than 186,000. Daily tallies place Russia’s death toll at 63,370.

Sobyanin stressed that hospitalizations in the capital have not gone down despite decreasing cases, urging Moscow’s 12 million residents to sign up for the mass vaccination drive and continue observing health guidelines.

Russia began the large-scale rollout of its domestically produced Sputnik V vaccine on Dec. 4, with the initial list of eligible recipients expanded from medics and teachers to other professionals over the weeks.

Russia announced that 1.5 million people had so far received Sputnik V, which President Vladimir Putin called the “best in the world.” Russian news outlets cited regional data and immunologists as saying that the real figure of vaccinations may be as low as 300,000.

Moscow Mayor Scraps Vote on Soviet Secret Police Chief Statue

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin halted a vote Friday on whether to restore a statue of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky outside the domestic intelligence headquarters in the Russian capital.

The vote, which kicked off Thursday and was set to last a week, offered Muscovites a choice between a statue of Dzerzhinsky, who is seen as a symbol of the KGB’s control over society in the Soviet Union, and Alexander Nevsky, a 13th century prince and Orthodox saint.

But with nearly 320,000 ballots cast two days later, with Nevsky leading Dzerzhinsky by 55% to 45%, Sobyanin decided to scrap the vote — and the new statue — altogether.

Writing on his official blog, the Moscow mayor said that the vote was “increasingly turning into a confrontation between people holding different views.”

“Different points of view on history are inevitable. But the monuments that stand on the streets and squares should not split, but unite, society,” he added.

The mayor said that the square in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB, would remain statueless — for now.

“We will probably come back to this question and together we will make a correct and reasonable decision,” Sobyanin wrote.

Three decades ago, Russians toppled the original statue of Dzerzhinsky in August 1991 as 100,000 people celebrated a failed putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s final leader who brought about its dissolution.

The 11-ton bronze statue, which is considered part of Russia’s cultural heritage, is now held in a park of Soviet monuments in central Moscow.

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