As the COVID-19 crisis gripped the rest of the world, Russia seemed to be insulated from its effects. Initially, reported cases were surprisingly low, as the Kremlin focused on sending aid to affected European countries. On April 1, a Russian military plane landed in New York with medical supplies accompanied by much fanfare from the Russian media. Now, with cases spiking, the Kremlin is still sending mixed messages to Russians – extending a “vacation order” through April 30 while refusing to cancel preparations for the massive May 9 Victory Day celebrations. At the same time, Russia is spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories about the virus and the Western response. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking a backseat, letting local officials bear the brunt of the response.

This discussion examined what is happening on the ground in Russia; why Russian cases were so low; the impact of the Kremlin’s recent shift to a more aggressive response; the Kremlin’s messaging at home and abroad; and what to make of Russia’s supposed humanitarian assistance to the United States and elsewhere.

ModeratorAlina Polyakova, President and CEO, CEPA

SpeakersPatrick Tucker, Technology Editor, Defense OneNataliya Vasilyeva, Russia Correspondent, The Telegraph

Joshua Yaffa, Moscow Correspondent, The New Yorker

Media Contact: Christina Brown at or (202) 601-4148.

Photo: "Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev January 15, 2020" by the Kremlin under CC 4.0. 

Dr. Alina Polyakova