On June, 30, 2021, confirmed 21,042 new coronavirus cases and a record number of deaths (669), since the start of the pandemic. Moscow and St. Petersburg were particularly hard hit. This news caught the Kremlin in the run up to the September 19, 2021. Gone were the days that the regime claimed that authoritarian governments were more adept and handling the pandemic. The regime was on the defensive for failing to introduce compulsory vaccination. Back in May, 2021, alarms were raised that Russians, despite the availability of a vaccine were simply not getting vaccinated. Kommersant's popular radio columnist Dmitry Drize wrote then about a vaccination crisis: "If tough measures won’t be taken, we’ll have to introduce a lockdown. It’s also interesting that the vaccination incentive program has also failed. In other words, a political decision needs to be made. One literally has to force the Russian people to get vaccinated, because they do not understand the “carrot” approach...Although all of us have been vaccinating since childhood, and nothing bad happened (no one has grown a tail or something)."
Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected the idea of compulsory vaccinations at an economic conference: " I once again want designate my position. In my opinion, introducing compulsory vaccination is impractical and shouldn't be done. The citizens should realize themselves this necessity [to get vaccinated].
Given the current lethal wave of the pandemic, a policy of creeping mandatory vaccination is taking hold. Many regions are making vaccinations compulsory upon an ever wider circle of employment categories. A Moscow decree from June 23, 2021 stipulated that workers in the trade sector, services, catering, transportation, health, housing and utilities, state services providers, education, culture and organizations dealing with children must vaccinate. Presidential Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov still claimed that vaccination was voluntary, but those whose unvaccinated state posed a danger to other citizens had to be vaccinated.  The governor of Krasnodar Veniamin Kondratyev promulgated a decree that a certificate of vaccination would be obligatory for checking into the resorts and hotels of his region. Moscow's Communist Party organization held a rally to protest the compulsory vaccinations and arrests were recorded. Now that Russians were getting vaccinated, supplies of the vaccines were running low or out not only in outlying regions but in Moscow and St. Petersburg as well. Peskov termed these shortages "temporary difficulties".
The policy flip flops and the general dissatisfaction with the Covid situation compelled Putin to devote the opening segment of his annual Direct Line call in program to the pandemic. Putin sought to make sense of the voluntary-compulsory situation regarding the vaccine and Russia's failure to immunize and blamed the situation on anti-vaxxers, the Duma and the fall of the Soviet Union:" Some of our colleagues suggested transferring vaccination against the coronavirus infection to this nationwide immunization schedule, the nationwide program. But the State Duma deputies did not support this motion, so, COVID vaccination did not make it to this section of the nationwide vaccination program and is not mandatory nationwide...However, the second part of this law says that in the event of an increase in the number of cases and in the event of an epidemic in separate regions of the Russian Federation and upon the recommendation of chief sanitary doctors, regional heads can introduce mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people, especially risk groups. The heads of 10 constituent entities of the Russian Federation used this regulation to introduce mandatory vaccination for certain risk groups. This was carried out under the 1998 law.
"Therefore, there is no confusion in Russia, and everyone is acting in accordance with the law that I just mentioned.
"We should take our cue from the specialists, not people who do not know much about this matter and listen to rumours. After all, this is happening all around the world. You know, the things I heard: that there is nothing at all, that in reality there is no epidemic. Sometimes "I listen to what some people are saying – they seem to be grown-up, educated people. I do not know where they are taking this from. When you tell them that this is happening all over the world, they reply: 'Right, country leaders have entered into collusion.' Do they have any idea of what is happening in the world, of the contradictions that are plaguing today’s world, where all leaders allegedly upped and conspired with each other? It is all absolute rubbish...
"But there were other diseases. Incidentally, the vaccination system was quite strict in the Soviet Union, nearly all vaccinations were mandatory. Did anyone ask the parents’ permission when their children were vaccinated at schools? Nobody did, everyone was vaccinated...I was from a simple workers’ family. My parents were workers. Who asked them? Nobody did. And nobody asked me either. We were simply lined up in the school’s medical room, were given our jabs just like that and off we went. But we had stability when it came to combating infections. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the social system almost disintegrated as well, including in the areas we are discussing now."
Rosbalt columnist Sergey Shelin commented on the current crisis and claimed that the problem was not the abandonment of Soviet era practices but their perpetuation under Putin. Shelin's column follows below:
Russian certificate confirming receipt of vaccination (Source: Udm.info)
"One thinker from the previous century identified the most striking trait of Soviet man: his absolute unpreparedness to face the consequences of his own actions. This observation is also most apt for the highest-ranking officials of our state. Despite being engaged a serious fight against pandemics for sixteen months, the authorities don’t admit their failures, nor do they take back any of their hypocritical or preposterous fabrications.
"Let’s just list what constitutes our latest version anti-Covid-19 campaign.
"1. Even now it [the fight against Covid-19] is not the № 1issue for the state.
"While the regions in succession introduce the so-called 'compulsory vaccination', the leader of the state follows the usual schedule, established over decades: a military parade; a visit to Europe for ritual talks with the US president; publishing an article, 'To be open despite the past' for the German Die Zeit newspaper; preparation for the “Direct line with Vladimir Putin” TV show.
"Where is Covid-19 [on this agenda]. Since spring of last year, the president has never presented Covid-19 as the country’s main misfortune (he is not presenting it even now as such). After all, it’s uncustomary for our leader to engage in unpopular tasks, and even more take the blame for failures.
"The higher-ups of all levels think similarly. Some deal with the [football] championship and fan zones, others - with fairs and carnivals. [They think], 'Pandemic is bad, but it is time for fun.'
"The ruling class simply doesn’t know how to detach themselves from their scheduled tasks. [According to them,] people, who believed the official assurances that everything was fine (and acted accordingly), are to blame for the infection cases and deaths.
"2. Federal officials, who have failed in all previous stages [of struggle against the pandemics], continue to fight the epidemic as if nothing had happened.
"Tatyana Golikova, Head of the Operational Headquarters to Prevent the Entry and Spread of a New Coronavirus Infection; Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Health; Anna Popova, Head of Rospotrebnadzor [Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing]...All remain at their posts. None of them were even criticized. These people didn’t even apologize for the past. And back in early June, none of them warned against the explosive growth of the epidemic. I don’t believe it was done out of ulterior motive. Considering their awareness and competence level, they had no idea that it was coming.
"Thus, there is no reason to fire them, even Anna Popova, who co-authored the EpiVacCorona patent (a vaccine, which according to slanderers is of little use). After all, conflict of interest or failure to perform direct duties (and the mischief that follows) are not punished in Russia. Let her continue to come up with statistics on infections and scold her fellow citizens for their frivolous attitude to the official guidance. Maybe the epidemic will subside by itself.
"3. There was no nation-wide anti-epidemic plan last year, just like now. The high-level authorities are fundamentally disinclined to drafting it.
"Each higher-up independently manages his subordinates. There were orders in some regions to vaccinate everyone or at least those, who have contact with an undetermined amount of people. Other regions vaccinate only state officials. In certain regions the local authorities are in a panic, trying to catch the vibes from the federal center. Also, there is no legal basis for compulsory vaccination. If we had a courts system, all of the decrees on compulsory vaccination would be nullified.
"That is the way it was from the very start. The 'non-work' days, announced in the spring of 2020, and remunerated by the employers, had no legal basis. However, the reason for the persisting administrative ad hoc decisions and the widely ensuing administrative improvisations not only lies in the anti-legal workings of the state apparatus, but also in its deep unwillingness to answer for the consequences of its actions.
"It’s not that difficult to come up with a national [anti-Covid-19] plan. It’s even easier to pass corresponding federal laws, which will make the vaccination campaign legal. But then you have to promise concrete things to the people. And report back. Someone has to answer the questions, 'How many millions of Russians will be vaccinated in June, July and then in August?' How promptly will the so-called 'risk groups', including the elderly, be vaccinated? What bonuses and incentives will the vaccinated receive? What federal restrictions will be introduced for the non-vaccinated and what restrictions can be lifted for the vaccinated?”
"Our state apparatus has no ability to answer these questions. It doesn’t even know what measures it will come up with tomorrow. The grand ventures it usually spouts are mere empty rhetoric. And in this case, it has to be accountable. This is unbearable.
"Thus, the latest anti-Covid-19 campaign, albeit more intense than the previous ones, doesn’t promise 'victory over the coronavirus' in the foreseeable future. Its master-minds don’t understand what actions have to be made, and aren’t focused on the results.
"4. The authorities are not only afraid to impose obligations on people, but are constantly coming up with something to discourage them from getting vaccinated voluntarily.
"The nonsensical campaign against Western vaccines seems to have been slightly curbed. But it did enough damage- the fear of any vaccination spiked. Those people, who contrary to fear campaign, want to get vaccinated with foreign vaccines and are willing to pay for it, face the paranoid ban on their import that remains in force. This ban not only prevents people from getting vaccinated (there about 5-10% of them), but also strengthen the conviction of the rest that something is wrong with Russian vaccines.
"Plus, Russian vaccines production volumes are unknown. Meanwhile, tens of millions of doses were supplied to Argentina. Will there be enough doses for 'compulsory vaccination?'
"Some places already experience a shortage of Sputnik V and CoviVac vaccines. This issue sometimes is being dealt with via senseless ruses: people unknowingly get vaccinated with EpiVacCorona.
"In the backdrop to such events are puzzling horror stories, made by officials with medical degrees and vaccine producers, about the horrors of the Indian virus and getting revaccinated to a man, (although it’s not clear when and how). It seems as if all of it is being done deliberately, just in order to cause more panic.
"And such statements are being made by the very same people, serving at the very same positions, who a month ago were claiming the opposite. People witness an endless stream of hysterical babble, which is coming not from the usual TV propagandists, but from titled officials. Their statements are not monitored by anyone and produce the impression that control has been lost not only over their actions, but even over the rhetorical machinery of the Russian bureaucracy.
"The situation is not so bad, though. In most states where the state apparatus knows how to perform its duties, the number of Covid-19 cases and especially deaths is declining. Countries are divided into two categories: those in which the spread of Covid-19 is suppressed and those in which control over the disease is lost. It seems Russia clearly belongs to the second category, which is unsurprising. This is simply how the system is. It is completely incapable of overcoming disasters, if they are genuine."
Sergey Shelin (Source: Abnews.ru)
 Themoscowtimes.com, July 1, 2021.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9331, Russian Journalist Leskov: Make Vaccinations Compulsory, Because Russians Don't Do Voluntary, May 13, 2021.
 Kommersant.ru, May 21, 2021.
 Interfax.ru, May 26, 2021.
 Kommersant.ru, June 24, 2021.
 Ria.ru, June 24, 2021.
 Gazeta.ru, June 26, 2021.
 Gazeta.ru, June 25, 2021.
 Kremlin.ru, June 30, 2021
 Rosbalt.ru, June 22, 2021