It was mid-March, and Russia had reported just 114 covid-19 cases, but President Vladimir Putin wanted to make a grand gesture: bonus payments for medical workers “who are performing their duties with honor.” But weeks rolled on, and Russia’s pandemic numbers ballooned past 250,000 and then 350,000 — now at more than 370,000, the world’s third-largest number of confirmed cases after the United States and Brazil. Medical workers were dying in their hundreds — 308 according to an unofficial count by medics. Many who kept working were not getting paid long-promised bonuses until recently. Some were even earning less money because the pay rate for working with covid-19 patients was lower than for their pre-pandemic jobs, such as surgeons. The snags in delivering Putin’s bonus promise is more than just one bureaucratic glitch. […]