It’s difficult to overstate the gargantuan levels of failure and fraud embodied by Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin. In the last few weeks, he has made the Hindenburg disaster look like a trifling fender-bender.
As a quick refresher: At the end of June, Russia’s most enterprising mayor decided that indoor dining would be reserved for people with government-issued digital health passes. This ingenious policy led to a boom in the counterfeit medical certificates market, and also murdered 200 businesses in less than three weeks due to a severe lack of Muscovites willing to be QR-tagged. Facing political ruin, Sobyanin was forced to abandon his technocratic wet dream.
Then, on July 30, another one of Sobyanin’s legendary “public health measures” was withdrawn: The city’s residents would no longer be “required” to wear gloves in shops or while traveling by taxi or in public transportation. The rule had been almost universally ignored since the first day it was introduced. Everyone knows this. Sobyanin knows this. And yet, for more than a year, Moscow’s mayor pretended that everyone was wearing gloves and that his policy (that everyone ignored) was actually saving lives. Meanwhile, he continued to periodically issue extortionary fines to ungloved and very unlucky metro passengers.
You have to live in Moscow in order to fully appreciate the human trainwreck that is Sergey Sobyanin. But for those who don’t reside in this great city, we have meticulously compiled a timeline to help demonstrate the tragicomedy of Sobyanin’s “mandatory” gloves. Enjoy:
MAY 7, 2020
Sobyanin announces that starting on May 12, the use of masks, respirators or other respiratory protection, as well as gloves will be mandatory in shops, shopping centers, as well as when traveling by any type of public transport and in taxis.
The mayor helpfully explains that these new rules should not be viewed as restrictions. On the contrary, mandatory glove use represents “a huge step towards returning to ordinary life.”
Individuals caught in shops without having their hands wrapped in disposable plastic will be fined 4,000 rubles ($55). The penalty increases to 5,000 rubles if you are foolish enough to ride public transport without your life-saving gloves. This is not pocket change in a city where many workers are lucky to make 60k rubles ($825) a month.
JULY 17, 2020
Sobyanin rakes in millions of delicious rubles from slapping fines on The Gloveless. By Juy 17, Moscow has issued 4,334 citations to shop employees and customers, totalling a very impressive 264.3 million rubles ($3.6 million).
JULY 31, 2020
More than 6,000 businesses in Moscow have now been penalized for not strictly enforcing mask and glove rules, with total fines exceeding 300 million rubles. The mayor’s office triumphantly announces that two stores were closed due to “numerous violations.”
Sobyanin’s deputy claims that by early June, 94% of Muscovites were wearing masks and gloves in shops, but that this figure fell to 68% by mid-July. Quite a claim.
AUGUST 2020 – MARCH 2021
The mandatory glove rule is extended. Everyone keeps ignoring it.
APRIL 8, 2021
Russians have started to neglect the government’s omnipotent Covid rules, which is unacceptable since coronavirus is “very cunning,” says Anna Popova, head of Rospotrebnadzor, the federal agency charged with guarding consumer rights and public wellbeing.
APRIL 18, 2021
A transport official claims that 70% of Muscovites are wearing gloves on the metro. Quite a claim. He says that the mandatory glove rule remains in place due to the “important recommendation” of medical experts, and urges the city’s residents to continue using them.
Around 1,800 city employees are tasked with “informing passengers about the need to wear masks and gloves,” as well as “monitoring compliance.”
APRIL 19, 2021
“Now our citizens have become less responsible in observing the mask regime and other precautions in public transport, shopping centers, offices. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the incidence rates are now frozen within the same range and do not want to go down in any way,” complains a senior Rospotrebnadzor official.
MAY 3, 2021
One of Sobyanin’s underlings insists it is a scientifically proven fact that wearing gloves saves lives:
[M]asks and gloves are a certain obligatory attribute, as I always have a mask in my pocket. Therefore, the likelihood [of canceling the regime] is not very high yet … After all, masks, gloves, [social] distance help save lives – this is already a proven fact
The official from the mayor’s office further suggests that Moscow was able to avoid months of harsh lockdowns thanks in part to the mandatory glove rule. He promises that Moscow authorities will step up checks to ensure that residents are wearing their life-giving gloves when they go grocery shopping.
MAY 4, 2021
A virologist interviewed by state media laments that Russians “have largely ceased to comply with anti-epidemic measures,” adding that there could be grave consequences if people continue to enjoy a “free lifestyle.”
MAY 14, 2021
In a letter, business leaders beg the mayor’s office to make masks and gloves voluntary, arguing that the mandatory rule was not enforceable.
The “vast majority” of Muscovites do not wear gloves, the letter states, describing the noncompliance as a “mass phenomenon.”
The group of business leaders argue that the mayor’s office should take charge of enforcing its own rules, as restaurants, shops and other enterprises cannot be expected to use “punitive force” to make customers wear gloves.
The letter’s authors also point to the clear “lack of data on infection in the absence of gloves,” noting that the World Health Organization recommends regular hand-washing over glove use. In fact, the WHO warns that prolonged use of gloves can actually accelerate the transmission of germs.
MAY 18, 2021
A transportation official reminds residents that around 2,000 city employees have been mobilized to ensure that Muscovites are wearing gloves — purportedly necessary in order to “prevent the spread of coronavirus.”
The rule continues to be enforced with fines.
On the same day, authorities deny rumors that the glove mandate has been dropped, likely due to everyone ignoring it.
JUNE 9, 2021
Officials blame lack of compliance with the never-observed glove rule for a rise in Covid cases in Moscow. Due to the “worsening epidemiological situation” in Moscow, authorities will “strengthen control” over glove usage, a city official announces.
“Responsible behavior and adherence to all established norms and rules will allow us to avoid the growth of cases, as well as prevent the introduction of additional restrictive measures.”
JUNE 11, 2021
Citing an increase in Covid infections, Rospotrebnadzor announces that it will take more aggressive measures to ensure compliance with “sanitary and epidemiological requirements” in Moscow. Government inspectors report that many workplace violations involve employees failing to wear gloves, while the businesses themselves do not require customers or visitors to don disposable hand-coverings. Rospotrebnadzor doesn’t like this.
June 16, 2021
A specialist working for Moscow’s health department claims that epidemiologists believe that the rise in new cases in Moscow is due in part to people failing to wear gloves.
“We urge everyone who uses public transport, visits crowded places to remember these simple rules. It is necessary to use masks, gloves, it is necessary to adhere to the principles of social distancing.”
JULY 30, 2021
Sobyanin claims that Covid cases plummeted “thanks to mass [compulsory] vaccination and other preventative measures [like QR codes, which were abandoned after 3 weeks].” Hospitalizations in the city peaked around two weeks after he introduced his mandatory vaccination regime, while his short-lived digital health pass was rolled out just a few days before hospital occupancy began to stabilize in late June/early July.
He does not explain how an increase in vaccination — a procedure which takes typically takes between 3-4 weeks to actually start being “effective” — accomplished this. But that is a different story for a different time.
The good news is that gloves are no longer required in transport shops and other public places: Muscovites can finally “return to normal life” after dutifully obeying the rule for more than a year, Sobyanin writes. Hurray!
But our story doesn’t end here.
Clearly eager to concoct some sort of semi-coherent reason for Sobyanin abruptly dropping the universally ignored rule after more than twelve months of evidence-starved claims and extortionary fines, Russian media runs the following story:
The decision of the Moscow authorities to abolish the mandatory wearing of gloves in transport and public places will not affect the incidence of coronavirus infection, experts interviewed by TASS said.
According to virologist Yevgeny Timakov, wearing gloves did not affect the spread of COVID-19, and canceling their mandatory use in the summer is even useful. “Due to the lack of gloves, there is no increase in the incidence in any region. Therefore, the abolition of [mandatory] wearing of gloves is not significant at the moment. On the contrary, it is very difficult to wear gloves in the summer,” Timakov told TASS.
In addition, gloves in the summer contribute to the appearance of skin diseases, recalled the doctor of medical sciences, doctor-immunologist Vladislav Zhemchugov.
“Dermatologists will have less work, because gloves are bad in such heat. The alternative was sprays, gels, various liquid preparations in sanitizers, which are much more effective, better and comfortable for people. But people should generally give up this habit, leaving the metro, for example, wiping their hands with napkins. This is effective not only in relation to coronavirus, but also in relation to many other diseases, “Zhemchugov emphasized.
Remarkable, isn’t it? How many gloveless Muscovites were harassed and robbed by Sobyanin for committing the crime of not following a rule that had no scientific basis?
How many small businesses were fleeced because they lacked the resources and personnel to enforce this comical mandate?
If Sobyanin is willing to lie openly about something as futile and juvenile as plastic disposable gloves, what else is he being untruthful about?
Questions, questions, questions…
At any rate, congratulations to the people of Moscow for humiliating this slimy coward.
Riley Waggaman is Anti-Empire’s Moscow Correspondent