New figures released by Russia’s federal statistics agency Monday indicate as many as 162,429 deaths in Russia were related to Covid-19 in 2020, a figure much higher than previously reported.
Russia officially reported 57,555 deaths from Covid-19 in 2020, according to data from the country’s coronavirus task force that is published on an easily accessed web page. But figures released by the agency, Rosstat, are less readily accessible: They are available online -- but buried in monthly spreadsheets.
The data published Monday reports a cumulative total of 162,429 Covid-19 deaths between April and December 2020. The figure includes deaths directly attributed to coronavirus infection and those cases where coronavirus was a contributing factor as well as deaths from other underlying causes where Covid-19 was present.
The figures also show a year-on-year surge in the country's overall mortality rate that suggests the numbers may have been majorly understated.
According to those new figures, a total of 2,124,479 people died in Russia in 2020, an increase of 323,802 over the previous year, or around an 18% year-on-year rise. That overall number -- the highest annual mortality figure recorded in Russia in over a decade -- reflects official reluctance to fully acknowledge the death toll.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, the top official in charge of the country's coronavirus response, said in December that "more than 81%” of the rise in fatalities the country had seen in 2020 was due to Covid-19, without giving the exact number of fatalities from the virus. Based on Golikova's assessment and the overall year-on-year increase in deaths reported by Rosstat, as many as 262,000 Russians could have died from coronavirus last year, by CNN's calculation.
December was also one of the deadliest months on record for Russia: Rosstat said that 243,235 people died in December 2020, making it the deadliest month Russia has seen in years. The statistics agency said 44,435 of these deaths were people with coronavirus or suspected coronavirus, but added that in 10,820 of those cases the presence of the virus did not “contribute to the death in any way.”
Russia’s counting method, which allows ascribing deaths in coronavirus-infected patients to other causes, has been highly questioned by independent observers and critics.
Based on figures released by Rosstat Monday, Russia would rank as the country with the third-highest cumulative number of Covid-19 deaths in 2020.