One of the greatest cons perpetrated by some elements in the Western press and the think-tank racket is that they genuinely care about the average Russian person. But in the time of coronavirus, the mask has truly slipped.
As the worldwide pandemic rages, you'd expect that the usual suspects would lay off vilification of “the Russians.” Unfortunately, it seems precisely the opposite is happening, with a particular cohort finding great amusement in suicide attempts by Russian doctors. Seemingly, the plight of medical staff and their ever-worsening mental health is cause for jesting and joking – all because of their nationality.
Last week, Russian media reported that a third medical worker in less than a fortnight had fallen to the ground from the window of a building. At the time of writing, two are confirmed dead, and the other is in intensive care, but now conscious and breathing on his own.
As news of the incident emerged, media from around the world began drumming up conspiracy theories, with Vox asking, “Is the Russian government surreptitiously killing people who speak out about the failures of the country’s coronavirus response?”
Vox's cast of conspiracy-peddling characters includes Alina Polyakova of the Center for European Policy Analysis, a lobby group funded by weapons manufacturers, the US-government, and NATO. “I would not be surprised if the security services were involved, sending a message to keep quiet on the crisis,” she said.
The reality is, in fact, much more tragic.
On April 24, Natalya Lebedeva, head of the emergency medical department in Star City, outside Moscow, fell to her death from a hospital window, where she had been hospitalized herself with suspected Covid-19. Star City is a small and closed community, home to Russia’s military research and space training facility.
According to the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, Lebedeva’s colleagues suspect she committed suicide due to accusations from her superiors that she had not taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of her employees, and had subsequently allowed several medical workers to become infected. Officials claim it was an accident and say it is being investigated.Also on rt.com As number of recorded Covid-19 cases skyrocket, Russian official declares complete victory impossible
One day later, on April 25, Elena Nepomnyashchaya, the acting head physician of the Krasnoyarsk Regional Hospital for War Veterans, fell from her office window. Krasnoyarsk is a city in East Siberia, over 3,000km away from Moscow.
According to local news outlet TVK Krasnoyarsk, Nepomnyashchaya’s fall occurred after a conference call with the head of the regional Ministry of Health, Boris Nemik, in which they were discussing how the hospital could be re-profiled to accept coronavirus patients. Nepomnyashchaya allegedly opposed the intake of those infected with Covid-19, believing it did not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE). Nemik denies this call ever happened. On May 1, Nepomnyashchaya died in intensive care.
The third incident followed a week later. On May 2, ambulance doctor Alexander Shulepov fell from the window of the Novousmansky District Hospital in the Voronezh Region, 470km south of Moscow. Unlike the other two medics, Shulepov is still alive.
Shulepov’s story is by far the most complicated of the three. Prior to his fall, the doctor had published a video, complaining that he was being forced to work after a Covid-19 diagnosis, and exposing a shortage of PPE.
As of now, nobody knows precisely what happened to Shulepov, but there are indications his fall was either an attempted suicide or an accident. As he fell from a window on the first floor of a building, it’s highly unlikely this was a murder attempt – after all, it’s probable that someone would survive a fall from such a low height. According to local news outlet RIA Voronezh, the most likely cause was that he slipped while smoking a cigarette on the windowsill.
The international reaction to the third fall featured lots of mocking and jeering. Apparently, the death of Russian medical staff is a cause of great hilarity. Nate Schenkkan, the Director for Special Research at US government-funded pressure group Freedom House, thought it funny to sum up the suicide of heavily strained Russian doctors as a “pandemic of defenestration.”
The former President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, also deemed what seems to be a mental health crisis to be high-quality comedic material. Later his tweet mocking the suicides was deleted.
The hilarity wasn't just limited to the likes of think-tanks and politicians, of course. The New York Times' former Moscow bureau chief, Neil MacFarquhar, also believed it suitable to make light of the situation.
Unfortunately, Russia's situation seems to be reflective of a grim international trend, in which medical workers from around the world are under constant strain, as the battle to defeat Covid-19 seems never-ending.
In late April, two over-worked American medics committed suicide, both in New York City. Emergency medical technician John Mondello and physician Lorna Breen both suffered under the intense strain of treating patients of Covid-19. In France, Bernard Gonzalez, a medic working with football team Stade Reims, took his own life after contracting coronavirus. Thankfully, these deaths were not mocked.
Many other countries have issues with the mental health of medical professionals, and nobody has believed it suitable to make jokes. That is a treatment reserved exclusively for Russians.
Indeed, it seems like everyone has a free pass when it comes to Russia. In the modern world, where racism, xenophobia, and bigotry are rightly considered disgusting, there's still one final group it's okay to despise. Even amid a global pandemic, there's one thing we're all allowed to do: mock the Russians.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.