Charles Maynes

As the number of coronavirus infections surges in Russia, observers have puzzled over a mystery: How is it that a country with over 250,000 suspected cases, and a shaky health care system, has had relatively few deaths?

The answer appears to be the Russian approach to pathology — an approach that has the Kremlin and government health officials in a bitter feud with media organizations over how Moscow interprets, or possibly manipulates, its data.

With the coronavirus forcing much of Europe to tone down public celebrations this week marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the small nation of Belarus is raising eyebrows — and concerns — by going ahead with a mass military parade in the capital Minsk on Saturday.

The move reflects the business-as-usual approach of the country's longtime president, Alexander Lukashenko — a former Soviet collective farm director leading what the U.S. once dubbed the last dictatorship in Europe.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In these pandemic days of fear and tedium, literature can be a comforting distraction. In Russia, young readers have rediscovered a Soviet-era poem and are finding a message from the past that resonates. NPR's Charles Maynes in Moscow explains.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To Russia now, where the country reported more than 4,700 new cases of the coronavirus today. The total number of suspected infections is now more than 62,000.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says his country is making progress in its battle to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, even as the number of Russians infected continues to rise.

"On the whole we're managing the first issue in the fight against the epidemic — slowing its spread," Putin said on Monday in a televised conference with his coronavirus task force of ministers and health experts.

"But that shouldn't comfort us," added Putin. "As you tell me, the peak is still ahead."

Nearly a dozen Russian military planes filled with medical supplies landed in Serbia on Friday — the latest in a series of controversial Kremlin humanitarian aid missions carried out amid the global spread of the coronavirus.

"Now we have everything to fight the virus," said Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in a statement released by Russia's Defense Ministry. "I want to say a big thank you to the Russian people."

City authorities in Moscow are rolling out new digital "social monitoring" tools targeting the public, after what officials say were constant violations of the city's quarantine imposed this week to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

Under restrictions in place since Monday, most of the city's 12 million residents must remain indoors, barring a few exceptions — like trips to the supermarket or pharmacy, taking out the trash or briefly walking the dog.

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