Putin critic vows to ‘tell truth’ about COVID-19 crisis in Russia despite threats to life

Dr Anastasia Vasilyeva, a founding member of the Doctors’ Alliance trade union, has been a vocal critic of Putin’s general health policies, which she blames for the destruction of the Russian healthcare system, as well as his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, the medical activist has started to feel the state’s repressive organs breathing down her neck. She received a summons from the Investigative Committee (Department of Public Prosecutions) to attend an “interview” as well as being contacted by the Social Services department, inquiring about the health and well-being of her children.

However, this formidable campaigner insists she won’t back down and is not afraid of the consequences.

Speaking to Express.co.uk she said: “What can they do to me? Kill me, imprison me – – all the same the truth stays the same, no matter what.

“I think I must tell the truth, because people deserve to be told the truth and if they don’t know the truth they could suffer and die.

“Because what they are doing now, not telling doctors – they are trying to conceal cases of coronavirus pneumonia in the hospitals and that will lead to the mass infection and death of people.

“So it is necessary to talk about it for the safety and health of ordinary people. I will talk about it, because I don’t care what they think about me because first and foremost we need to think about people and not political ambition, or stupid political posturing.

“I am not afraid. They cannot do anything to me. People will riot if they kill me.”

During this current health crisis, Dr Vasilyeva has consistently criticised the Kremlin for failing to provide hospitals with personal protective equipment (PPE) along with other basic medical supplies, and has claimed that doctors have been ordered to cover up COVID-19 deaths.

Russia has seen an explosion of COVID-19 infections, with more than 106,000 people testing positive for the disease.

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At the same time there have been 1,073 deaths, giving Russia a mortality rate of roughly one percent.

However, Dr Vasilyeva is highly sceptical that these figures reflect the real situation, telling Express.co.uk that doctors have been instructed to attribute deaths caused by COVID-19 to other ailments, such as coronary heart disease.

She said: “Head doctors have an order to not write down the mortality diagnosis of coronavirus pneumonia.

“They are really writing down other diagnoses, cardiovascular, a lot of other diseases that a person has. So that is why these statistics are not true.

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“We understand that statistics in Russia [means] they can rule the statistic as they want, to influence the brains of the population of Russia.”

She added: “I know about it because my relatives and friends are working now in Moscow hospitals, in Saint Petersburg and in other towns and cities – nobody says about this situation and on state TV they say everything is good and under control.”

This comes as medical staff at a Moscow hospital that specialises in treating tuberculosis said that many children on one of its wards had developed COVID-19.

Doctors from the Moscow Scientific and Practical Centre for Narcology said they were being forced to work without any protective clothing and only had access to one respiratory device.

In an email sent to the Doctors’ Alliance, staff wrote: “Large numbers of children have fallen ill.

“It is clear that it is the coronavirus. They haven’t given us any protective clothing. They said: ‘Until it is confirmed, work as normal’. We have access to one breathing device over a 24 hour period.

“Among staff, more than ten have temperatures. We also have staff with confirmed cases of pneumonia.”

On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin sought to reassure Russians about the pandemic, which has seen infections explode in the country to overtake China’s official total.

During a televised address to the nation, the president claimed that the situation had “relatively stabilised” but that the situation was “still very serious”.

He said: “The peak is not behind us, we are about to face a new and gruelling phase of the pandemic… the deadly threat of the virus remains.”

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