To the surprise of nobody, Russia’s homophobe-in-chief isn’t telling the truth about coronavirus

Coronavirus russia

It will come as no surprise to any member of the LGBT+ community that coronavirus outbreak in Russia is likely to be far worse than Putin is letting on.

So far Russia has reported just three deaths from coronavirus, at time of writing – far fewer than most western European countries.

In total the country claims it has fewer than 700 cases of the virus overall, but this was called into question on Tuesday when the mayor of Moscow told Putin that the cases in his city alone far exceeded the official figures.

“A serious situation is unfolding,” Reuters reported the mayor telling Putin at a meeting.

Testing for the virus was scarce, he said, and many Muscovites returning from abroad are self-isolating at home or in holiday cottages in the countryside where they’re not being tested.

“In reality, there are significantly more sick people,” he concluded, suggesting that the number of cases in the capital could already have reached 500 or more.

Putin has previously said the situation was under control and that the biggest danger was “panic”. But as he donned a protective suit and respirator to visit a hospital earlier this week, he appeared to be changing his rhetoric.

President of Russia, Vladimir Putin (front), wearing a yellow protective suit, visits the Kommunarka hospital for patients with suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia, on March 24, 2020 (Photo by Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Putin’s evasive attitude towards the truth is painfully familiar to anyone observing the treatment of LGBT+ people in Russia.

The country has one of the worst LGBT+ rights records in the world and has seen LGBT+ people imprisoned, beaten, tortured and killed in gay concentration camps as part of a “gay purge” in Chechnya.

Yet Putin has steadfastly claimed: “Our attitude to the LGBT+ community is absolutely calm and unbiased.”

In an interview with the Financial Times last year, the Russian president insisted that Russia’s homophobic reputation was unfounded.

“I am not trying to insult anyone, because we have been condemned for our alleged homophobia as it is. But we have no problems with LGBT persons,” he claimed.

After he made these remarks Sir Elton John accused the president of hypocrisy, pointing to the fact that gay sex scenes from his biopic Rocketman had been censored in Russia.

“I strongly disagree with your view that pursuing policies that embrace multicultural and sexual diversity are obsolete in our societies,” he said.

Continuing his flagrant disregard for the truth, Putin indignantly replied that the singer was “mistaken”.