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Opinion
Clara Ferreira Marques

Kremlin Politics Are Bad for Russia’s Health

The country’s shrinking, aging population is a major headache for Vladimir Putin. Yet from babies to Covid-19, competing priorities stand in the way of solutions.

Too little, too late.

Too little, too late.

Photographer: Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty Images

“I don’t even know what is going on,” President Vladimir Putin complained to ministers last month, exasperated that even “well-educated people, with higher degrees” continue to refuse Russia’s Covid-19 vaccination. “Why wait for the disease and its severe consequences?”

For an administration obsessed with demographics, scientific reputation and global status, the blow has been devastating. With far too few citizens vaccinated, Russia suffered the deadliest September since World War II, and daily cases have kept rising. The Kremlin has been forced to impose a “non-working” week until Nov. 7, with Moscow introducing a partial lockdown. Not for the first time since Putin came to power just over two decades ago, promising to reverse a demographic decline, political imperatives have hampered public health.