Russians, in peaceful protest, call for Putin to quit

Opposition supporters wait in queue outside the president's administrative office to deliver letters calling for Vladimir Putin not to stand for a fourth term in 2018, during a protest rally in Moscow on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 29 April 2017

Russians, in peaceful protest, call for Putin to quit

MOSCOW: Several hundred Russians lined up in central Moscow on Saturday under the gaze of riot police to hand over handwritten appeals for President Vladimir Putin to quit, as similar protests took place in other cities.
Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for 17 years, has not said whether he will run in presidential elections in March 2018. But the 64-year-old politician, who enjoys high popularity ratings, is widely expected to do so.
Saturday’s protest in the capital — called “We’re sick of him” — was organized by the Open Russia movement founded by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once Russia’s richest man, he was freed by Putin in 2013 after spending a decade in jail for fraud, a charge Khodorkovsky said was politically-motivated.
One of hundreds shepherded into a queue behind metal barriers by police before handing over their petitions one-by- one, Anna, a 16-year-old Moscow schoolgirl, said she hoped Putin would get the message and not run again.
“Nothing positive has happened in our country on his watch and I have the sense that things are getting worse, and that the main problem is the fact that those in power are the same,” she told Reuters.
Her preference for president was opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who spent 15 days in jail last month after helping organize the biggest anti-government protests since 2012, which ended with over 1,000 arrests.
Saturday’s event, held in bright sunshine, was more modest, though authorities were taking no chances. A Reuters reporter counted at least 30 police buses and coaches in the area, packed with hundreds of riot police.
Videos posted by Russian media showed police in riot gear detaining protesters in St. Petersburg, where activists reported over 100 arrests. There was no official confirmation of the arrests.

Stepping up pressure
Police said 250 people had showed up in Moscow, the Interfax news agency reported, while Maria Baronova, an Open Russia activist, said at least 500 people had handed over a petition.
Irina Glushkova, 64, standing in the same line as the schoolgirl, said she and many others simply didn’t agree with how Putin governed.
“I’m sick of the situation,” she said. “I’m the same age as Putin and I don’t think I’m less intelligent than him, but my opinion is not taken into account at all.”
Authorities have stepped up pressure on Open Russia in recent days. The General Prosecutor’s Office ruled on Wednesday that the activity of Open Russia’s British arm was “undesirable” and accused it and other organizations of trying to discredit the election.
On Thursday, police searched the Moscow offices of Open Russia’s Russian branch. Activists said they confiscated 100,000 blank appeal forms which the foundation had hoped to hand out to people encouraging them to call for Putin to quit.
On Friday, REN TV, a Russian TV channel, broadcast a documentary about Open Russia activists, some of whom it accused of having criminal records, of being drug addicts, and of cultivating close links with the US government.
Activists dismissed the program as a cheap stunt designed to discredit them, with at least one noting that REN TV had somehow obtained video footage stored in his mobile phone.


China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

Updated 17 February 2020

China asks recovered patients to donate plasma for virus treatment

  • Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic

BEJING: Chinese health officials Monday urged patients who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood so that plasma can be extracted to treat others who are critically ill.
Drugmakers are racing to develop a vaccine and treatment for the epidemic, which has which killed 1,770 people and infected over 70,500 people across China.
Plasma from patients who have recovered from a spell of pneumonia triggered by COVID-19 contains antibodies that can help reduce the virus load in critically ill patients, an official from China’s National Health Commission told a press briefing Monday.
“I would like to make a call to all cured patients to donate their plasma so that they can bring hope to critically ill patients,” said Guo Yanhong, who heads the NHC’s medical administration department.
Eleven patients at a hospital in Wuhan — the epicenter of the disease — received plasma infusions last week, said Sun Yanrong, of the Biological Center at the Ministry of Science and Technology.
“One patient (among them) has already been discharged, one is able to get off the bed and walk and the others are all recovering,” she said.
The call comes days after China’s state-owned medical products maker reported successful results from its trial at Wuhan First People’s Hospital.
China National Biotec Group Co. said in a post on its official WeChat account that severely ill patients receiving plasma infusions “improved within 24 hours.”
“Clinical studies have shown that infusing plasma (from recovered patients) is safe and effective,” Sun said.
Blood doners will undergo a test to ensure that they are not carrying the virus, said Wang Guiqiang, chief physician at Peking University First Hospital.
“Only plasma is taken, not all the blood,” he said.
“Other components of the blood including red blood cells and platelets will be infused back into the donors.”