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How bad is Russia's Covid crisis? Packed morgues and excess deaths tell a darker story than official numbers suggest

November 17, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The limbs of a lifeless body hang off a stretcher in a hospital ward as coronavirus patients battle for their lives just a few feet away. An elderly woman gasps for breath, her desperate panting a grim soundtrack to one of many disturbing cell-phone videos emerging from hospitals across Russia.

Moscow (CNN)The limbs of a lifeless body hang off a stretcher in a hospital ward as coronavirus patients battle for their lives just a few feet away.

"This is how our nights look: horrifying," says a male voice narrating the footage, given to CNN by a prominent opposition-linked Russian doctors' union, "Doctors' Alliance," which says it was recorded in mid-October by a hospital staff member in Ulyanovsk, a city around 500 miles east of Moscow.

"I think the real figure is [around] 130,000 people," said Alexey Raksha, a former government statistician who has made his estimates based on official data on excess deaths -- the number of fatalities above what would normally be expected -- to assess the toll of the pandemic.

Between April and September 2020, Russia's official excess mortality figure was roughly 117,000 more deaths, compared to last year, according to Rosstat, the Russian statistics agency.

Raksha says he quit Rosstat in July after being publicly vocal about the way the agency counts coronavirus-related deaths.

"Only the first tier of victim, when the patient has tested positive for coronavirus before dying, is recorded as a Covid-19 death," Raksha told CNN.

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