17 April 2020
Valery Borshchev is co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group
The coronavirus has been found in 31 cadets at Moscow’s Nakhimovsky Naval Institute, the media reported on 17 April, citing the Russian Defence Ministry. A total of 155 people are studying at the institute.
Also, according to media reports, the Tyumen Higher Military Engineering Command Institute, where a hotbed of the infection was previously discovered, has been closed for quarantine. According to reports from the military department, the coronavirus has been diagnosed in 14 servicemen and one civilian employee of the institute. The test results for the other 352 students were negative.
In Russia, the disease curve has been going up for the sixth day in a row. In the past 24 hours, 4,069 new cases of infection have been identified, the most abysmal record since the beginning of the epidemic’s spread. The total number of people infected is 32,007. In Moscow, over the past 24 hours, 1959 new coronavirus carriers have been added, bringing the total in the capital to 18,105. Fatal outcomes for the country come to 273 Russian citizens, 127 in the capital.
Last night, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the necessity of postponing the traditional Victory Day parade this year. “The risks in connection with the coronavirus do not give me the right to carry out preparations for the 9 May celebration,” he said at a meeting of the country’s Security Council.
At the same time, the head of state promised that all mass events in honour of the 75th anniversary of the Victory, including the parade itself and the march of the “Immortal Regiment,” would definitely take place. Exactly when the events are being postponed to is as yet unknown.
Before this, the Kremlin had said that as of now there was no question of postponing the military parade, which in recent times has invariably been held on Red Square. True, according to media reports, the ministry of defence had considered the possibility of holding the event without spectators.
It was supposed that 15,000 people and about 400 units of military equipment would take part in the parade.
Last night, an appeal was sent to Vladimir Putin in the name of Russian veterans’ organizations asking that he postpone the Victory parade to another date.
Valery Borshchev, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, thinks that the decision to postpone the parade was to be expected. In the opinion of the human rights activist, the main snag was that the Kremlin could not determine a date to which the event could be postponed.
“In any case, the parade would have been less than full value if it took place on the usual date,” he emphasized in a commentary for the Voice of American Russian Service. “Naturally, none of the invited state leaders would come and there would be no spectators. Yes, they could show a picture on television, but it would not have produced the proper effect, of course.”
The leaders of 17 states, including France, India, Cuba, Venezuela, and the Czech Republic, had agreed to come to Moscow for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II. Several heads of state had turned down the invitation, and the United States had planned to be represented at the ceremonies by the president’s national security advisor.
It had become clear that it made no sense to hold the parade under these conditions, Valery Borshchev says.
“Moreover, a serious danger was posed for the military subdivisions that would have been put into action preparing and conducting the event. We have very little information about what is happening in the army in connection with the coronavirus. However, it’s understandable that given all the congestion during rehearsals, the risk of infection would have risen greatly,” he summed up.
Valery Borshchev believes the state is distraught over the fact that due to the coronavirus an event it had placed a large bet on had fallen through.
Translated by Marian Schwartz