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COVID-19: Putin Credits Unified Approach For 'Minimal Losses'; Iran Daily Deaths Exceed 100 For First Time In Two Months

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Iranian worshippers attend the Friday Prayers while maintaining social distancing in Tehran Province on June 12.

The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 430,000 with more than 7.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

Here's a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL's broadcast regions.

Russia

President Vladimir Putin says Russia is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic with minimal losses and has done better than the United States in handling the health crisis, but questions about Russia's recordkeeping persist.

Russia is "working rather smoothly and emerging from this situation with the coronavirus confidently and, with minimal losses," Putin said on state television.

Russia has recorded 6,938 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The death toll is much lower than in many other countries despite Russia having more than a half-million infections -- the third-highest rate after the United States and Brazil.

The veracity of Russian statistics, however, has been questioned. Critics have said that the authorities might have falsified the numbers for political purposes to play down the scale of the outbreak, and a top World Health Organization (WHO) official said the low number of deaths in Russia "certainly is unusual."

Unlike Russia, some countries' official death count includes people who had COVID-19 but died from other causes, said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program.

"It will be important that the Russian authorities review the way in which death certification is done to reassure themselves that they are accurately certifying deaths in the appropriate way," Ryan said, according to the Associated Press.

In his interview with Rossia-1, Putin also said Russia had handled the crisis better than the United States because authorities at federal and regional level had worked as one team without disagreements.

"I can't imagine someone in the [Russian] government or regions saying we are not going to do what the government or president say," he said.

Commenting on the United States' high death toll of more than 115,000, Putin said it appeared that "party interests" had been "put above those of society's as a whole, above the interests of the people."

The virus exposed what he called deep internal crises that dated back to President Donald Trump's election victory and efforts by rivals to undermine its legitimacy.

Putin also commented for the first time on anti-racism protests in the United States, describing them as a sign of "deep-seated internal crises."

RFE/RL's Coronavirus Crisis Archive

Features and analysis, videos, and infographics explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the countries in our broadcast area.

The Russian president stressed he supported African-Americans' struggle for equality, calling it "a long-standing problem" in the United States and one that Russians "had a lot of sympathy for."

But Putin added that if the fight for legal rights turned into "mayhem and rioting," he sees "nothing good for the country."

He said he nevertheless expected that the "fundamental basis of American democracy will allow the country to escape this series of crisis events."

Putin also denied allegations that constitutional reforms that could allow him to extend his rule were aimed at "strengthening a presidential dictatorship," saying parliament would have a bigger role after the changes.

Putin has called on citizens to support amendments to the constitution at a national vote scheduled for July 1.

Among other changes, the amendments would allow the 67-year-old, who has run Russia for 20 years as either president or prime minister, to stay in power until 2036.

Iran

The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Iran has exceeded 100 for the first time in two months, the country's Health Ministry said on June 14.

Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari announced 107 coronavirus fatalities in the past 24 hours, raising the overall death toll to 8,837.

She said the number of infections had reached 187,427, with 2,472 new infections recorded in the past 24 hours.

Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher.

After gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, Iran in recent weeks has seen a rise of new daily infections.

Speaking on June 13, President Hasan Rohani said that restrictions to stem the coronavirus pandemic will be reimposed in the country if citizens continue to disobey public health regulations.

Rohani said compliance with health regulations had been as high as 80 percent in mid-May. But he said compliance is now down to only about 20 percent.

Kazakhstan

Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin has gone into self-isolation after the Central Asian country's health minister tested positive for the coronavirus.

The prime minister's spokeswoman, Zarina Nurlanova, said on Facebook on June 14 that Mamin would continue to work and had tested negative for COVID-19.

Mamin made a working trip to the southern Zhambyl Province with Health Minister Yerlen Birtanov on June 12 to start construction at a new pharmaceutical plant intended to produce medicines and vaccines.

Birtanov said on June 14 he tested positive for the coronavirus and had been hospitalized.

"Despite all the strict sanitary measures I have followed, there are always risks," he wrote on Facebook, urging Kazakhs to practice physical distancing, wear a mask, and follow sanitary measures.

Nurlanova said both ministers wore masks when they were together.

Pictures posted on Facebook show the two wearing face masks at the pharmaceutical-plant construction site.

The number of people infected with the coronavirus has risen sharply in the country recently.

According to the latest data, 18,898 people have been infected with the coronavirus in Kazakhstan and 77 people died.

The true infection rate and death toll are believed to be higher.

Those diagnosed with COVID-19 but said to have "died of another disease" are not included in the country's core statistics.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Reuters, AFP, and IRNA
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