• New figures show more people died in Russia in November 2020 than in the past 16 years
  • The number of deaths nationwide rose by 81% compared to 2019
  • Health care workers have complained about underfunded and ill-equipped facilities

The Russian government on Monday admitted to having the third-most coronavirus-related deaths worldwide, after months of denial.

Some Russian experts have questioned President Vladimir Putin’s claims of a low COVID-19 fatality rate across the country. Putin also claimed the Russian government managed the virus better than Western countries.

However, new figures released on Monday show that more people in Russia died in November 2020 than in any single month for the last 16 years in the country. In November 2019, officials recorded 141,000 deaths. In comparison, authorities recorded 220,000 deaths throughout November 2020.

An analysis conducted by Financial Times found that Russia has experienced one of the world’s sharpest rises in mortality since the pandemic began.

The Rosstat statistics agency released data that showed the number of deaths from all causes recorded between January and November 2020 had risen by 229,700, or 81%, compared with fatalities reported in 2019.

“More than 81% of this increase in mortality over this period is due to Covid,” Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said.

The increase would mean that over 186,000 Russians have died from COVID-19, yet previously recorded figures revealed 4,500 deaths.

The new figures from Rosstat show that Russia now has the third-most COVID-19 deaths in the world, directly behind Brazil with 191,570 and the United States with 334,830, the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in a single country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health care workers in Russia have repeatedly criticized Russia's underfunded and ill-equipped health system. In November, a video circulated across the country on social media platforms that showed dozens of bodies wrapped in black plastic bags in a hospital in Barnaul.

“The deceased Covid-19 patients were being stored in the basement of the hospital due to a shortage of pathologists and an increase of coronavirus infections and deaths,” the region’s Health Ministry said.

Russian authorities have to continue holding out against imposing stricter coronavirus restrictions nationwide. In May, authorities declared victory over the virus and lifted its quarantine.

The move allowed COVID-19 to have a wider reach across all ages and social classes. Hospitals throughout Russian regions also suffered from shortages of bed spaces and health care staffers.

Several medical facilities have been forced to turn away patients who were not in critical condition. Other hospitals shut their doors due to a lack of proper personal protective equipment.

The final part of the trial of Russian historian Oleg Sokolov, found guilty of murdering and dismembering his former student lover, in St Petersburg.
The final part of the trial of Russian historian Oleg Sokolov, found guilty of murdering and dismembering his former student lover, in St Petersburg. AFPTV / Alexander ZHDANOV