Russia emerges as coronavirus hot spot; Putin sees approval ratings fall

Russia emerges as coronavirus hot spot; Putin sees approval ratings fall
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Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinNavalny released from hospital after suspected poisoning Ex-Trump national security adviser says US leaders 'making it easy for Putin' to meddle The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting MORE’s approval ratings are down as the country reported 10,000 new coronavirus cases for four consecutive days.

Russia’s leading independent pollster, the Levada Center, said Putin’s approvals have fallen to 59 percent, a 20-year low, The New York Times reported. This marks an 11-point drop from October and a 4-point drop from March.

The report comes as the nationwide total of coronavirus cases has risen to at least 165,929 and three Cabinet ministers, most recently culture minister Olga Lyubimova, have tested positive.

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Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has also tested positive, leading Putin to sign a decree appointing first Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov as acting prime minister last week. Mishustin, 54, played a central role in the Russian response to the pandemic after becoming prime minister in January, but was forced to self-isolate after he was diagnosed.

The pandemic initially showed a slower growth rate in Russia than in the U.S. and Europe, but has reached a stage where total cases double every 10 days. The current growth rate is among the highest in the world.

Although a spokesman for Putin’s office said the Kremlin is taking the Levada data with a grain of salt, government-affiliated pollsters have shown Putin’s approvals declining, as well. Levada, which typically conducts polls face-to-face, took the April survey by phone due to the pandemic. As a result, some respondents may have been reluctant to voice their criticisms of Putin by phone, potentially overstating his support in the poll, according to the Times.

Russia imposed a partial lockdown in March, with residents of Moscow required to display travel permits to show they are essential workers. In late April, the government quarantined thousands of troops who had been set to participate in the now-canceled Victory Day parade through Red Square, citing possible exposure to the virus during rehearsals.