Virus-hit Russia reports 25% death increase in January-March

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s state statistical service says the number of deaths nationwide in the first three months of 2021 was more than 25% higher than the same period a year ago.  The Rosstat agency said more than 583,000 people died in January-March of this year, compared with 460,000 for those months in 2020. The agency did not provide an explanation for the sharply higher death toll, but critics have suggested that Russia underplays the severity of the pandemic in the country. In a report issued Friday, Rosstat also reported thousands more deaths due to COVID-19 in March than tallied by the country’s coronavirus task force.