News of the Day: 5 June 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia has confirmed 5,117,274 cases of coronavirus and 123,436 deaths, according to the national coronavirus information center. Russia’s total excess fatality count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is above 460,000.

RFE/RL: It was an undertaking that endured as a symbol of Soviet brutality and flawed planning. Prisoners of the gulag forced labor camp system would die in their thousands toiling on the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM), a showpiece communist project that was never completed. Now, decades later, Russian prisoners are set to help finish the task. Amid an exodus of Central Asian migrant workers who traditionally man construction sites across the country, the penitentiary service is moving to bring in convicts to replace them — and spearhead the expansion of a track that now stretches from Lake Baikal to the Sea of Japan. […] “This will not be the gulag,” said Aleksandr Kalashnikov, the penitentiary service head, as he announced the program at a meeting with officials on April 20. “These will be completely new, decent conditions.” But for many human rights activists and government critics, the idea cuts too close to the bone. The very notion of sending prisoners for hard manual labor in remote, often inhospitable climes was meant to be a vestige of the Soviet past, of a time when dictator Josef Stalin purged the ranks of the political elite and the intelligentsia and many lived in fear of being the next perceived enemy to be exiled, shot, or carted away to camps in Siberia.

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