In response to the crisis, the decision-making in Ukraine, with 19,230 cases of COVID-19 by May 20, was more centralized. On March 17 the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament, passed the Law on Countering the COVID-19 infection. This allowed the Government to change the working regime of a company or a state body as well as introducing the ban on scheduled events. Later the Government introduced more restrictive measures such as prohibiting all mass events and gatherings, visiting public areas and activity of non-essential city services, such as restaurants, and entertainment centers. Only companies selling food products, medicines, and other first-need goods as well as banks and delivery services were allowed to operate.
The Kazakh Government, where the number of cases is currently 6,969 patients (20/05/20), had introduced a lockdown of its largest cities Nur-Sultan and Almaty on March 19. This was followed by a ban on entry and exit from these cities with some exceptions for the transport of food and medical supplies. At the beginning of April, all other regional centers were either quarantined or restricted, prohibiting business activity and forcing citizens to remain at home. With only 35 reported cases of deaths from the disease, the approach of Kazakhstan seems to have been the most effective one in the region.
A similar situation took place in Kyrgyzstan, 1,270 cases, where authorities quarantined the biggest cities and regions and introduced a curfew from 20.00 until 7.00. The emergency situation had also pushed them to cancel local government elections that were initially scheduled for April 12. Uzbekistan, 2,880 cases, followed a similar path, requesting citizens to self-isolate and suspending all railway and air passenger services.
Only Belarus stands out from the other countries in this cluster (31 508 registered cases by 20/05). The Government did not impose any restrictions on the entry of foreigners, only obliging those arriving from countries with epidemic outbreaks to self-isolate for 14 days. General internal quarantine measures were not considered by the Belarussian authorities; instead, they chose on trying to placate growing anxiety and panic among the people. The Council of Ministries restricted mass events, but the order was not fully respected or implemented: the all-nation voluntary Saturday work on April 25 and the Victory Parade on May 9 both took place with the presence of the country's leadership.
To date, most of the quarantine provisions in the considered countries remain in force. The governments are not willing to lift all of them at once and prefer to make incremental adjustments. In Russia, with the official end of non-working days on May 12, the regions were allowed to soften restrictions based on the improved statistics of new COVID-19 cases. A similar situation is seen in Uzbekistan where all administrative regions are color-coded according to the strength of restrictions remaining in force.
Kazakhstan ended its national state of emergency on May 11, allowing small and medium retail and service sector businesses to reopen. Kyrgyzstan has also canceled its curfew and some restrictions.
Ukraine extended its quarantine to May 22 but has lifted some restrictions from May 11. Recreation areas and sports facilities, cultural entities as well as small and medium restaurants and service companies were allowed to open.
Public authorities go online
The quarantine measures also affected the working regime of public authorities. The need to maintain balance regular decision making with demands of social distancing pushed most government bodies to work virtually or in other new methods, with most meetings involving public authorities now held via teleconference.
Across the region, though, the executive branches, namely governments and presidential administrations, have continued to work as usual in most of the countries. In some cases, such as Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, most government employees were sent to work from home or were encouraged to take annual leave. The regular governmental working groups in Kazakhstan and Russia are held via video or audio conference calls. Only Belarus refused to introduce any new arrangements, instead providing informal advice to state bodies' employees to restrict visits to other regions within the country.
Presidential administrations in Russia and Kazakhstan continue to operate as usual while taking regular health checks of its staff. Access to public buildings is limited only to personnel working there. At the same time, President Putin has left Moscow and closed locked himself up in a dacha from where he contacts meetings the government and world leaders. A number of high-profile public servants were infected with coronavirus, including Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Ministers of Construction and Culture, and the Press Secretary to President.
The hardest political blow had to be taken by President Putin as he was forced to postpone indefinitely the National Vote on the constitutional amendments that opened the possibility for him to remain in power until 2036. His current presidential term, already fourth one, ends in 2024. According to the current rules he is not allowed to run for the post again. However, the proposed amendments, that were due to be voted in on April 26, set Putin's previous presidential term count back to zero.
Right after the National Vote, President planned to have massive celebration and military parade after the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day together with the leaders of countries that were involved in WWII. However, he had to settle for a modest and lonely celebration without any guests and the parade in front of the Eternal Flame just outside of the Kremlin.