Russia’s president had big plans for this spring, all about stressing stability and projecting strength.

But that agenda has been hijacked by the spread of coronavirus and a dramatic plunge in both the oil price and rouble.

April was earmarked for a vote to approve changes to the constitution, allowing Vladimir Putin to remain in power into his 80s.

May would see a giant military parade, marking the 75th anniversary of Victory Day.

The new mood here is one of nervous uncertainty.

For now, both vote and parade are still officially on and Mr Putin is conveying an image of calm in turbulent times.

He’s declared the outbreak of Covid-19 “under control” in Russia thanks to its “timely” measures, while state media coverage has slammed Europe for “mismanaging” the pandemic and highlighted a “failure of EU solidarity”.

So as European leaders focused on quarantine and crisis, President Putin headed for Crimea to celebrate six years since Russia annexed the territory from Ukraine.

It’s a deliberate show of business as usual: the president out and about, meeting crowds and shaking hands, not “social-distancing”.

But it is a show.

Everyone who comes into close contact with President Putin is now being tested in advance for coronavirus.

Source: BBC News

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