Irina Danilovich: A Political Prisoner in Russian-Occupied Crimea

Irina Danilovich. Photo courtesy of Ivan Astashin

Who is Irina Danilovich? Why is she in a remand prison? How can we support her?

The wave of criminal cases directly related to anti-war stances sometimes obscures other politically motivated cases. I want to tell you about one of them.

Irina Danilovich worked as a nurse at Koktebel’s post-stroke rehabilitation center while being heavily involved in civic affairs. Irina can be called a grassroots activist, human rights defender, and journalist. She was, for example, the coordinator of the information campaign Crimean Medicine Without a Cover and in this capacity she harshly criticized the Crimean authorities during the coronavirus pandemic. Danilovich has collaborated with the alternative news website Injir Media and the human rights project Crimean Process. Radio Svoboda reports that Irina defended the interests of medical workers on the peninsula and wrote extensively about violations of their rights. Recently, writes Injir Media, Danilovich had been drawing attention to the war and related problems, including in the healthcare sector.

On April 29, 2022, Irina Danilovich was abducted by the FSB. She was found in the Simferopol pretrial detention center almost two weeks later.

As attorney Aider Azamatov discovered, Irina had been held in the FSB building for eight days, where officers made her take a lie-detector test and threatened to take her into the woods [and shoot her] if she concealed anything from them. She was fed once a day this entire time. After a week of torture, Danilovich was told to sign blank forms in exchange for her release. However, after complying with the demands of the security officers, Danilovich was not released, but sent to the pretrial detention center – allegedly, 200 grams of explosives were unexpectedly found in her eyeglass case.

It is quite obvious to me that the 200 grams of explosives “found” in the eyeglass case of the grassroots activist, journalist, and human rights defender are part of a politically motivated trumped-up criminal case. Especially since this is happening in Crimea. The Memorial Human Rights Center has repeatedly drawn attention to trumped-up criminal cases against Crimeans disloyal to the Russian authorities involving weapons, explosives or ammunition planted during searches.

Now Irina Danilovich is in jail. How can we help her? By doing all the usual things – getting the word about her case out, sending her letters and parcels (there are no restrictions on receiving parcels at the pretrial detention center), and holding solidarity actions.

Crimea became a lawless place after 2014, but public attention to Irina’s case can protect her from further mistreatment and enable her to live to see her release with minimal injuries.

✉️📦 Send letters and parcels to:

295006, Republic of Crimea, Simferopol, Lenin Blvd., 4, SIZО-1,

Danilovich Irina Bronislavovna (born 1979)

Free everyone!

Source: Ivan Astashin, Facebook, 25 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

100% Herd Immunity

https://paperpaper.ru/papernews/2022/2/15/vlasti-zayavili-chto-peterburg-dostig-k/

[February 5, 2022]

The authorities say that Petersburg has achieved 100% herd immunity. Is it true?

The number of people who been vaccinated and people who have recovered from covid-19 in Petersburg speaks to the fact that the city has achieved 100% herd immunity, first deputy chair of the Health Committee Andrei Sarana said on the St. Petersburg TV channel.

Referring to the Health Ministry’s website, Sarana said that Petersburg had reached 100% collective immunity. According to the official, 3.14 million people, including more than 2,400 children, had been fully vaccinated in Petersburg.

According to Health Ministry’s guidelines, Petersburg has to vaccinate 80% of its entire population, excluding children and adults who cannot be vaccinated — this amounts to 3.5 million people. At the same time, it is not known how this approach works and whether it takes into account people who, for example, were vaccinated more than a year ago.

In fact, 2.9 million residents have undergone a full vaccination cycle in Petersburg, which is equal to only 55% of the total number of people officially residing in St. Petersburg (5.3 million people), according to city hall’s website. Only the covid crisis center reports that 3.5 million people in Petersburg have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

In mid-January, the authorities were already claiming that herd immunity in Petersburg, according to various calculation methods, was at either 88% or 100%. Bumaga discovered then that they were talking about a portion of the total number of the city’s residents. Read more here.

Screen shot from the animated series Masha and the Bear

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1240

[February 14, 2022]

Dear compatriots! So as not to give my detractors cause for hysteria that I am exceeding my powers, I officially declare that this is my personal opinion, the humble opinion of Russian citizen Ramzan Kadyrov.

In my appeal there are two messages to two addressees — to the Ukrainian authorities and to the Ukrainian people.

Mr. Zelensky! The time for clowning has come to an end. The hour has come to fulfill one’s duty to one’s own people in order to avoid irreversible consequences. That is, today, more than ever, there is a need to implement the Minsk Accords, which were signed not only by the President of Russia, but also by the President of Ukraine. The strict implementation of the provisions spelled out in this document is the first important step in a political settlement of the growing confrontation not only between our countries, but also in reducing general tension in the global sense of the word. In this regard, you, as the guarantor of the Constitution and the security of your people and state, are simply obliged to do everything in your power to avoid bloodshed and establish peace. President Vladimir Putin and the peoples of Russia do not want war: we know firsthand the meaning of this terrible word. Be reasonable, Mr. Zelensky!

And now I want to address Ukrainians. My dear ones! I love Ukraine and its kind people. From the Soviet history class that I took at school, I know that Kievan Rus is the cradle of Russian statehood and Orthodoxy. Russians and Ukrainians are a single Slavic people with a common history, culture and religion. I will never believe that Ukrainians consider themselves part of the so-called Western world with all its degenerate “values” and Russophobic hysteria. Yes, that’s right, despite the fact that the current anti-national regime and its propaganda are doing everything to erase this sense of community. Somewhere in the depths of my soul I have a glimmer of hope that this historical justice [sic] will be restored by the Ukrainian people themselves without anyone’s help from outside. It cannot be that the spiritual and historical heirs of the great Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky and the brilliant writer Nikolai Gogol would not want eternal peace with fraternal Russia!

https://t.me/RKadyrov_95/1241

[February 15, 2022]

I fully support the decision of the State Duma to ask the President of the Russian Federation to recognize the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

I believe that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief will grant the request and our country will recognize the independent status of both republics. Vladimir Vladimirovich is a far-sighted and wise politician. I think he will definitely take such an important step for the advent of peace.

I am sure that this is not only my opinion, but also that of the majority of Russians. Residents of the DPR and LPR have been living under the yoke of lawlessness for many years, their right to self-determination ignored. In this situation, it is recognition of independence that will determine their status in the international arena and put an end to many years of confrontation and bloodshed.

The Chechen people perfectly remember what mayhem, violence and continuous fighting can lead to. We clearly remember the unenviable feeling of hopelessness and believe that only such a logical endpoint will save the inhabitants of these two republics.

A large-scale information campaign has been launched against Russia and the two republics. Every day, fakes [sic] are disseminated about a new date for the crossing of the Ukrainian border by Russian troops and the declaration of war. But everyone has forgotten that Ukraine has been waging such a war with its neighbors for eight years. The foreign media prefer to keep quiet about this.

If officials in Kiev are not going to implement the Minsk Accords, are not attempting to settle the issue peacefully, issue, are heating up the situation, and not looking for ways to solve the crisis, then it is more than logical that our President Vladimir Putin should take over the peacekeeping mission in this difficult political situation.

Peace will come to Donetsk and Lugansk after you say your WORD, Vladimir Vladimirovich!

https://t.me/tass_agency/108662

[February 15, 2022, 1:11 pm]

Russia will not abandon the residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics alone in the event of an invasion of their territory by the Ukrainian army — the response will be commensurate with the scale of aggression, Federation Council Chair Valentina Matviyenko said.

https://t.me/tass_agency/108663

[February 15, 2022, 1:13 pm]

Valentina Matviyenko called even the idea of a war with Ukraine wild, noting that Russia would do everything on its part to prevent such a development of events.

“Our position has been clearly set out by the head of the Russian state: for our part, we will do everything so that there is no war with Ukraine. Not today, not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, never!” said the speaker of the Federation Council in an interview with Parlamentskaya Gazeta.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Terpily

Grigorii Golosov
Facebook
February 10, 2022

The sudden onset of winter has brought Petersburg to a state of ruin. The number of people crippled by black ice on pavements and ice floes falling from roofs is comparable to the number of victims of an international military conflict of medium intensity somewhere in Africa, and no terrorists could dream of having such an impact. I won’t even mention the regional authorities, whose only real task has long been to ensure “correct” election results, especially federal ones, but on occasion their own local elections as well. As for the federal authorities, they are even less interested in local problems. They prefer to spend hundreds of millions every day to senselessly drive tanks and other equipment along the southwestern borders. Geopolitical fantasies warm the soul, and their concern about security is quite sincere, because security for them is tantamount to maintaining power. The broken legs and broken heads of deadbeats are not included in this concept of security. Let them watch TV in a cast and rejoice in the country’s greatness, the doormats [terpily].

Screenshot from r/DoesNotTranslate

_______

Boris Vishnevsky
Facebook
February 10, 2022

A few sad takeaways from today.

A monstrous sentence was handed down to 15-year-old Nikita Uvarov: 5 years in prison for computer games.

In Chechnya, Zarema Musayeva, the wife of a federal judge, who was abducted from her home in Nizhny Novgorod, was denied a transfer to house arrest: she has been left in remand prison until April 1.

The arrest of journalist Ivan Safronov, who has never been told what kind of “high treason” he committed and what “state secrets” he gave out (secrets to which he never had access) had his arrest extended until April 7.

Ill and in need of medical care, Sergei Zuyev, the rector of the Shaninka [Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences], was transferred from the medical unit of the capital’s Matrosskaya Tishina remand prison to a gen pop cell.

No, we can’t change these thing now. Just like we can’t change many other things.

But when change happens — and it certainly will happen — we can refuse to forget or forgive these things.

No matter how often people tell us “we were ordered”, “we were forced,” “we were low on the totem pole,” “we had families, children, and mortgages”, and, more generally, “well, you understand…,” our answer will be, “No, we don’t understand.”

_______

Excerpt from an email that a friend in Petersburg sent me this morning:

In fact, I haven’t fully recovered yet, although it all started three weeks ago, apparently, and now [I’m suffering] the consequences of the fact that I blamed the initial symptoms on fatigue and ran through snowdrifts until I fell down with a temperature around 40; only then did I realize that this was it. It was right at this time that the medical system collapsed. It’s true that everyone is sick. I left the house [for the first time] a couple of days ago: there [were] five times fewer people on the streets and in the shops than usual, and a couple of weeks ago everyone was coughing and sneezing everywhere, without masks mostly, I won’t even mention vaccinations. Basically, I highly recommend not getting sick with this thing, if possible.

All three texts translated by the Russian Reader

_______

 

Russian Teenager Gets Five Years In Prison In Minecraft ‘Terrorism’ Case
Siberia.Realities (RFE/RL)
February 10, 2022

KANSK, Russia — A court in Siberia has sentenced a 16-year-old boy to five years in prison in a high-profile terrorism case prompted by plans he had with two friends to add the building of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to the popular video game Minecraft to allow players to blow it up.

The First Eastern District Military Court in the Krasnoyarsk region sentenced Nikita Uvarov on February 10 after finding him guilty of illegal weapons possession and passing through training for implementation of a terrorist act, charges he has rejected since his arrest in fall 2020.

Two other defendants in the case were convicted of illegal weapons possession and handed suspended prison terms of three years and four years, Vladimir Ilkov, the lawyer for one of the two other defendants, told RFE/RL.

Prosecutors had sought nine years in prison for Uvarov and six years in prison for the other defendants.

The three boys were 14 when they were arrested in 2020 while distributing leaflets to support Azat Miftakhov, a mathematician, who was in custody at the time and later sentenced to six years in prison in January 2021 on terrorism charges that he and his supporters called politically motivated.

After their arrest, investigators confiscated their telephones and said later they found chats in the phone that “had proven” that the trio planned to add the FSB building to the Minecraft game and blow it up there.

The investigators also said that the boys criticized the FSB in the chats, read banned books, fabricated firecrackers, and blew them up in abandoned buildings in their native city of Kansk.

Uvarov refused to cooperate with investigators and spent 11 months in pretrial detention before he was released last year to finish the ninth grade at school, while his two co-defendants pleaded guilty and fully cooperated with the investigation.

In his final statement at the trial on February 9, Uvarov reiterated his previous comments rejecting the charges and added that if he is imprisoned, he “will serve the sentence with a clean conscience and dignity.”

“It was painful for me to see how my country oppresses people, civil rights activists, who want the best for the country and stand for its well-being. Now, unfortunately, I am experiencing myself the despotism of the unfair collaborators of the system,” Uvarov said.

Image credit: screenshot of a Google News search for “Minecraft,” February 10, 2022

_______

Julia Galkina
Facebook
February 10, 2022

It turns out that the joke about a pizza courier who arrives faster than the ambulance is not a joke. Yesterday, it took the ambulance two hours to get to me: I think that was very fast.

I get the feeling that, like organs in a body with terminal cancer, all services in the city are failing. The doctor has got sick, the janitor has been killed by a block of ice. It’s like we’re inside the quiet apocalypse from the movie Songs from the Second Floor.

And yet, I know people who, although they are probably infected (“oh, I only have a sore throat”), continue to ride the subway. And I know people whose ordeal with omicron has not been “three days on the couch and that’s it,” but has been quite hard.

I would like to say to people from the first category that they (and/or their employers) are fucked in the head — no matter what the assholes themselves say.

This text was added two hours after the original post. Translated by the Russian Reader

Brainwashing vs. Reverse Language Localization

“Brainwashing” California-style, from my morning post

“Brainwashing”, “an old Soviet tradition,” and the absence of inconveniences: why are Russian speakers in no hurry to get vaccinated against the coronavirus?

The share of native foreign-language speakers among the unvaccinated residents of Finland continues to grow. The Yle newsroom found Russian speakers who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, and found out their reasons

Jevgeni Bogdanov • Yle • 19 January 2022

With the advent of omicron, the Finnish authorities expressed particular concern for the republic’s foreign-born residents: there are many infections among them and a noticeable number of people who have refused vaccination.

Special attention paid to native foreign-language speakers

The vaccination rate continues to grow in Finland, including among residents whose native language is not the official Finnish, Swedish, or Sami. According to estimates by THL (Department of Health and Social Development), this indicator does not differ much among Russian speakers than from other native foreign-language speakers.

At the same time, the proportion of native foreign-language speakers among the unvaccinated has increased.

“In October, people who speak foreign languages [as native languages] accounted for 21% of all unvaccinated people in Finland. In mid-December, this figure rose by a couple of percent points,” said Natalia Skogberg, research director of THL’s group on COVID-19 among people of foreign origin.

Skogberg notes that the reasons for refusing to be vaccinated can be very different: doubts about the safety of the vaccines, confidence in one’s own health and the lack of risk from the virus, distrust of public officials, difficulties with the Finnish language, and the inability to distinguish misinformation from reliable information. She argues that the opportunity to get answers in one’s native language is a “big plus.”

“The authorities have published a lot of information in different languages. Information and recommendations have varied depending on the stage of the epidemic and, for example, the level of vaccination,” Skogberg assured us.

A Finnish health service video about coronavirus vaccines with Russian voiceover

THL’s travel recommendations in Russian have been viewed 16,000 times during the pandemic. More than 4,000 people have viewed its Russian-language page about the coronavirus, and a video about the vaccines with a Russian voiceover has garnered almost 1,700 views. THL noted that they have been trying to convey information through Russophone organizations and targeted advertising on social networks.

Russophone anti-vaxxers have their say

Kymsoten koronarokotuspistellä istuvia henkilöitä Kauppakeskus Hansassa Kouvolassa.
A vaccination center at a shopping mall in Kouvola. Photo: Antro Valo / Yle

The topic of vaccination is raised not only in THL bulletins. Heated debates for and against vaccinations take place on forums and online communities for Finland’s Russian-speaking residents. A Yle News journalist sent dozens of messages to those who opposed vaccination on the internet, asking them to substantiate their position for this article. Many of them turned us down. One person explained that they had rejected our request because our questions about vaccinations were “quite provocative.” Another person said they did not want to be involved in “brainwashing.” A third person called the work of the authorities and the media during the pandemic “one hundred percent misinformation” and “a crime against [human] rights and humanity.” One of our interlocutors was hospitalized with the coronavirus during our correspondence.

However, there were also those who were willing and able to express their opinions.

Tatyana (her surname has been withheld at her request), who is a Finnish citizen and lives in Kuopio, said that she did not want to be vaccinated “for personal reasons.”

“I’m not going to get vaccinated either in Finland or in any other country. […] I believe that before they are vaccinated, people with certain health problems or with a history of heart surgery should at least be given a complete physical” said the woman, who works in the cleaning industry.

According to her, this decision has already begun to affect her work, as her boss had threatened to cut her hours. In other areas of life, she did not feel any problems, since she had “no need of pubs and discos.” The woman also noted that she did not need information about vaccination in Russian, as she speaks Finnish.

Vladimir, an information and communications technology specialist living in Porvoo, has also refused to be vaccinated. (He also requested that his last name be withheld.)

“The vaccine is new and the side effects in the long term are unknown, as well as the number of vaccinations that will need to be done,” the young man said when asked to substantiate his position.

He also pointed out that even with three vaccinations, one can get sick with COVID-19, and a vaccinated person can infect people with whom they come in contact.

“I think it is more important to be able to do a test and be sure that you don’t have the virus, that you don’t have the asymptomatic form and won’t infect anyone. I consider [good] hygiene and a medical mask sufficient precautions,” Vladimir argued.

He also pointed out that being unvaccinated did not cause “critical inconveniences” to life in Finland. Among recent difficulties, the ICT specialist recalled that he was not able to eat at a particular restaurant due to the QR-code mandate. The man found a way out: he went instead to a nearby fast food outlet, where he was not asked for a code.

Vladimir argued that dividing people into “the vaccinated with their privileges” and the unvaccinated did not encourage them to sign up for vaccination in any way. He admitted that his position would change only if his employer “obliged” him. The man noted that some of his friends had been vaccinated for this reason.

“News about the coronavirus has turned into background noise, I don’t follow it in detail,” said Vladimir, adding, however, that he had read official recommendations and Yle’s news reports.

THL responds and even agrees

Yle asked THL chief medical officer Hanna Nohynek to comment on the stance of our unvaccinated protagonists. She even agreed with some of their points.

Thus, one of THL’s main COVID-19 spokespeople said that mRNA vaccines were not in widespread use until 2021. At the same time, she noted that the technology itself had been researched for about twenty years, and today hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA vaccines had already been produced.

“Detailed safety monitoring is carried out, so even rare side effects are known. And there has been constant reporting,” Nohynek assured us.

According to her, some restrictions were made for safety reasons. People under the age of forty are better off not getting adenovirus vector vaccines (AstraZeneca, for example), and the Moderna mRNA vaccine is not recommended for men under the age of thirty.

Nohynek also acknowledged the truth of the claim that even with three doses of the COVID-19 drug [sic], one can get sick.

“This is true, but the vaccinations are primarily aimed at preventing severe forms of the coronavirus. […] None of us can know how badly they will suffer from the disease when faced with omicron,” THL’s chief medical officer argued.

Nohynek said that having a medical examination before getting a vaccination was an “old Soviet tradition” that is not considered necessary in Finland. However, she noted that it was important to be aware of allergies. Perhaps it was not worth getting an mRNA vaccine if one had them.

THL’s chief medical officer commented on a specific problem that, judging by the discussion on the internet, Russians face. If a person has already been vaccinated with Sputnik V, can they be vaccinated in Finland?

“It is effective and safe to use different vaccines. Of course, when a large number of doses is involved, more local symptoms may occur, such as short-term fever, muscle pain, and fatigue.”

Nohynek concluded by saying that the protection provided by the vaccine is considerable even for healthy young people.

Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the heads-up. The lead image, courtesy of Montage Health, was not part of the original article. Translated by the Russian Reader



Yle’s Finnish translation of its original Russian-language article is a brilliant example of what I would call “reverse” language localization. Here is a telling passage:

THL:n ylilääkäri Nohynek: rokotteet ovat turvallisia ja niiden tärkein tehtävä on suojata vakavilta tautimuodoilta
Novosti Yle pyysi THL:n ylilääkäri Hanna Nohynekiä kommentoimaan Tatjanan ja Vladimirin väitteitä.
Nohynek kertoo, että mRNA-rokotteita ei ole ollut laajassa käytössä ennen vuotta 2021, mutta itse tekniikkaa on kuitenkin tutkittu jo parikymmentä vuotta. Tähän päivään mennessä mRNA-rokotteita on annettu satoja miljoonia annoksia.

This is my English translation of this excerpt:

THL chief medical officer Nohynek: the vaccines are safe and their main function is to protect against severe forms of the disease
Novosti Yle asked THL’s chief medical officer Hanna Nohynek to comment on Tatyana and Vladimir’s claims.
Nohynek explains that mRNA vaccines were not in widespread use until 2021, but the technology itself has been studied for some twenty years. To date, hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA vaccines have been administered.

Here is the “same” passage in the original Russian article:

THL отвечает и даже соглашается
Редакция Yle попросила главного врача Ведомства здравоохранения и социального развития Ханну Нохинек прокомментировать позицию наших невакцинированных героев. С некоторыми пунктами она даже согласилась.
Так, один из главных спикеров THL по вопросу COVID-19 сообщила, что вакцины, произведенные с использованием технологии мРНК, не были в широком использовании до 2021 года. При этом она отметила, что сама технология изучалась около 20 лет, а на сегодня сделаны уже сотни миллионов доз мРНК-вакцин.

This is my English translation, as above:

THL responds and even agrees

Yle asked THL chief medical officer Hanna Nohynek to comment on the stance of our unvaccinated protagonists. She even agreed with some of their points.

Thus, one of THL’s main COVID-19 spokespeople said that mRNA vaccines were not in widespread use until 2021. At the same time, she noted that the technology itself had been researched for about twenty years, and today hundreds of millions of doses of mRNA vaccines had already been produced.

Will Covid QR Codes Cause Petersburg to Explode?

George Losev • Facebook • January 11, 2022

It is the first working week after the tightening of anti-covid rules, and amid a new rise in infections, we can draw preliminary conclusions.

During this entire time, my QR code has been checked three times. The first and only time it was done thoroughly was at a football match at a state-owned facility on January 3. The second time was at the entrance to a Leroy Merlin store. It had been refitted so that it was impossible to enter the store otherwise, but they didn’t verify my name. The third time was at a bakery, where they also didn’t check my name.

That is, on a standard working day, I first travel an hour in a packed subway car and then in a packed minibus, then I sit in a room packed with elderly colleagues at the daily briefing, then I do the rounds of apartments [to make electrical repairs], then I travel home for another hour. And all this happens without anyone checking any QR codes. But if I stop by a Rainbow Smile cosmetics store on the way home and accidentally forget my phone, which contains my QR code, then I won’t be served.

Why not? So that I cannot infect other customers at Rainbow Smile. Or at the bakery. But I would have already infected three times as many people in the subway, on the minibus, and in the apartments I visited (although I was masked).

It is obviously no accident that people have been calling the QR codes “PR codes.” The idea may have been sound, but it has been implemented as idiotically as possible, like everything our authorities undertake, except military interventions.

On the web, I have been observing unusually ferocious and surprisingly cookie-cutter attacks on the owners and staff of establishments that have announced they are doing QR code checks.

I definitely get the feeling that Prigozhin’s trolls are carrying out a coordinated attack on these establishments — possibly with the goal of getting ahead of the curve (anti-covid riots have already happened in other countries) and channeling popular anger in the most negative direction. The focus of rage thus shifts from the authorities to the establishments forced to obey the rules.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of natural-born anti-vaxxers in our society, but the uniformity, absurd rage, and standard advice (e.g., “hire a lawyer and take them to court”) evinced by at least some of the social media commentators expose them as Prigozhin’s trolls.

The future will depend on how the QR code campaign goes. If the procedure becomes a routine matter, they start checking full names, counterfeiters are subjected to crackdowns, and everyone gradually gets used to it, then most of the population will get vaccinated.

Another option is that everyone gradually stops being afraid, and QR code checks become more and more a formality and gradually come to naught.

If revolts suddenly occur, then the left will have to decide whether to get involved in them. Most people on the left are likely to condemn the riots as conservative (the right will undoubtedly be involved), destructive (the anger will be directed against specific businesses), and harmful to the fight against the epidemic.

In my opinion, the left should be involved in such revolts as much as possible by shifting the focus to the true culprits — the authorities — and coming out with a constructive program as to what should be done.

Infographic courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle. Translated by the Russian Reader


The people are upset: Is Petersburg threatened by grassroots protests over QR codes? • Darya Kovalyonok • Delovoi Peterburg • January 12, 2022

QR codes have been mandatory for gaining entry to dining establishments and non-food stores in Petersburg since January 2. While most restaurants and retail outlets have been coping with cursing customers, counterfeit codes, and long queues, a little more than a hundred others have openly declared that they would be ignoring the new requirements. Alexander Konovalov, a Petersburg restaurateur who became famous for publishing a “map of resistance” a year ago, has now launched a website with a list of establishments that are ready to welcome customers without vaccination and immunity certificates. As this issue went to press, there were 118 establishments on the list who promised not to ask for a QR code at the entrance.

Incidentally, Konovalov’s initiative has significantly facilitated the work of the Smolny [Petersburg city hall], which has weaponized the website containing the names of the bars and shops that ignore the QR code by regularly carrying out raids on them. For its part, the Petersburg prosecutor’s office has reacted to the boycott by these establishments by reminding them that they could face administrative and criminal charges for violating the QR-code regime and other restrictive measures.

Nevertheless, in many cases, the QR-code regime is either enforced nominally or not enforced at all. Earlier this week, our correspondent interviewed more than a dozen Petersburg residents who had patronized cafes and restaurants over the holidays. The upshot is that business ask to see QR codes about half of the time, and after asking for them, they often don’t even scan them. Even in the shops and dining establishments where customers are asked to show a QR code, the customer’s identify is not always checked. Many Petersburgers who patronize such establishments take advantage of this to use someone else’s QR codes.

At the same time, the experts note, the negative attitude of Petersburgers to QR codes is not always tantamount to rejecting vaccination. Maria Matskevich, a senior researcher at the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, draws attention to the fact that skepticism about the new regulations comes not only from diners and shoppers, but also from those who have to check for QR codes.

“Moreover, unlike in other countries, this practice is not accepted in our country even by those who are forced to check whether people are complying with requirements. It is a game in which there is a mutual understanding on both sides of the measure’s futility. The procedure for checking QR codes is performed with detachment: people on both sides show that this is not their own undertaking, unlike vaccination. When conflicts arise, the people performing the role of inspectors apologize for their actions, which is incomparable, for example, with a traffic police inspector fining a violator for an offense. For the time being, [the checking of QR codes] is more like a game played according to rules that are intuited by all parties,” says Matskevich.

Although the experts doubt that the QR codes themselves can trigger popular unrest, in the current circumstances, the growth of discontent is palpable at the everyday level without sociological surveys.

Vladimir Sokratilin, executive director of Solution, a consulting company, notes that the level of tension in society is rarely determined by any one factor; most often the causes are complex. Nevertheless, in the public’s mind, all these factors form an image that is denoted at the everyday level by the term “injustice.” Sokratilin argues that the point is not that people’s real incomes are stagnant or even declining, but that the majority of people imagine that “wrong actions on the part of the authorities” are the reason for this decline.

“Tension in society does not necessarily mean that people will take to the streets and protest. However, the higher the degree of tension in society, the higher the probability that society will explode. If there are opportunities and channels for interaction between the authorities and society, then the most dangerous thing that the country can expect is a political crisis. But we have observed in Kazakhstan what happens when there are no channels for negotiating.

“After all, the Kazakh authorities met the populace’s demand to reverse the increase in gas prices, but it was unclear with whom and how to negotiate. It is difficult to predict which leaders could come forward in the wake of social protest, and it is even more difficult to predict how they would behave. Let us recall that when Vladimir Lenin arrived in Petrograd in the spring of 1917, his plans were greeted with surprise even by some of his Bolshevik supporters, and many intellectuals considered him an outsider and an eccentric,” Sokratilin argues.

The introduction of QR codes, which the authorities formally declared was a means of slowing the virus’s spread, when in fact they are obviously pursuing other goals, has also become an irritating factor.

“We understand, however, that vaccinated and re-infected people can also spread the infection. So the QR codes are just a way of encouraging the populace to get vaccinated. Consequently, society receives an additional signal that the authorities are deceiving and manipulating them when it comes to a vital issue. Such an inconsistent and opaque position on the part of the authorities does not increase the populace’s confidence in it, but undermines it,” says Sokratilin.

Matskevich argues that it is not yet obvious at the grassroots level what shape dissatisfaction with QR codes could take, since there is no organizing force that would help people to comprehend and politically formalize their dissatisfaction. At the same time, an aggressive reaction has been increasingly occurring at the individual level, exacerbating social polarization.

“When confronting such major problems as the pandemic, people can show either extreme individualism or solidarity. So far, our society has displayed an extreme degree of individualism and lack of unity,” the sociologist notes.

Sokratilin adds that in such circumstances, favorable conditions are generated for unexpected people to become very famous and popular extremely quickly. “For example, the bar owner and ‘bar resistance’ organizer Alexander Konovalov is not a political figure, but a businessman. However, more and more people are avidly keeping track of what he’s doing, regardless of their attitude toward him,” says Sokratilin.

Photo by Sergei Yermokin. Courtesy of Delovoi Peterburg. Translated by the Russian Reader

Happy New Year, Veteran!

Novosibirsk city councilman asks prosecutor to investigate complicity of United Russia reps in veteran’s death
Sibir.Realii (RFE/RL)
January 7, 2022

Novosibirsk city councilman Georgy Andreyev has asked the prosecutor’s office to investigate whether the United Russia party was complicit in the death of 100-year-old Second World War veteran Nikolai Bonkin. The veteran died of covid-19 five days after he was visited by United Russian party members, who congratulated him on the New Year. They were without masks and did not observe social distancing. As part of its “Happy New Year, Veteran!” campaign, United Russia congratulated hundreds of veterans in the Novosibirsk region alone.

Andreyev told Sibir.Realii that he was outraged by the carelessness of the United Russia members. Party rep Tatyana Sazonova published a report on their visit to Nikolai Bonkin. The pictures she posted on Instagram show that not all the congratulators were wearing masks. Not only did they not maintain social distancing, but they also hugged the veteran, even pressing their cheeks to his face. Packages with gifts from State Duma member Dmitry Savelyev are also visible in the snapshots.

A screen shot of Tatyana Sazonova’s Instagram post about United Russia’s allegedly fatal visit to WWII veteran Nikolai Bonkin

“A legendary war veteran has passed away: this is a great loss for the city. Five days before [his death], United Russia party ‘envoys’ had come to see him. Nikolai Sergeyevich Bonkin had survived the war, the 1990s, and the Yeltsin-Putin reforms, but he was apparently unable to survive, unfortunately, United Russia’s desire to hype itself,” Andreyev said.

The councilman appealed to the prosecutor’s office in response to this incident. (Sibir.Realii has obtained a copy of the complaint.) In addition, he has discovered that the campaign “Happy New Year, Veteran!” was a nationwide affair, and that United Russia had visited around 400 veterans in the Novosibirsk region alone. In snapshots featuring veterans, published on the party’s website, the party’s elected officials and representatives are not wearing masks and do not maintain social distancing.

Andreyev noted that in late October, when the State Duma was considering a bill to exempt war veterans from utility bills, 297 United Russia MP “simply refused to press the buttons” [and thus vote in favor of the bill]. Among them were four Novosibirsk MPs, Andreyev said.

There are four points in Andreyev’s complaint. He asks the prosecutor’s office to investigate whether United Russia rep Tatyana Sazonova was complicit in Nikolai Bonkin’s death, whether the individuals in the photos were vaccinated against the coronavirus, and whether they are currently symptomatic. The councilman also asked the prosecutor’s office to find out whether there were other Great Patriotic War veterans who died during or after the “Happy New Year, Veteran!” campaign. In addition, the councilman wants the prosecutor’s office to determine whether there were signs of genocide, [as defined by the Criminal Code,] in United Russia’s actions.

“There is a clause in the article [defining genocide in the Criminal Code] about persecuting a group of people for political reasons. I don’t see anything other than political motives in these actions,” Andreyev explained. “It is important for me to understand who initiated the visits to veterans in local communities. Where did United Russia obtain the personal data of veterans and their relatives? What were their grounds for entering the apartments of elderly people? Who are these people [who paid the visits]? Who verified whether they were political reliable?”

The regional prosecutor’s office did not return our telephone call.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Anti-Coders (#SegregationInAction)

This Instagram post by Roebuck Cafe in Petersburg, explaining that it would be serving only customers with QR codes showing they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus or recovered from covid-19, and urging people to telephone 122 and sign up for a jab, elicited the ire of user Izarets, for example, who said they wouldn’t be darkening the cafe’s door anymore, even if they did have a “peekaboo code.”

______________

Opponents of QR codes stage flash mob on social networks, tagging the posts of companies #WeDon’tPatronizeThem. Etazhi in Petersburg has been targeted ||| Bumaga ||| October 27, 2021 ||| Translated by the Russian Reader

Opponents of the QR code system have launched a flash mob on social media, commenting on the posts of shopping malls, cafes and cultural clusters with the hashtags #WeDon’tPatronizeThem and #SegregationInAction.

The flash mobsters dub the QR codes “peekaboo codes” and “cuckoo codes,” criticizing businesses that have agreed to check whether their customers and patrons have them. The action has touched different cities in Russia, from Noyabrsk, located in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, to St. Petersburg.

For example, the flash mobsters commented a post on Instagram by the Petersburg cultural center Etazhi, announcing that it would be open during the lockdown, but people would be admitted to its exhibitions and observation deck only by presenting a QR code. “It is a pity that you support segregating the population too. We won’t be patronizing you anymore,” wrote one female user. Similar messages appeared under posts by Roebuck Cafe, the Youth Theater on the Fontanka, and other establishments.

Bumaga has explained in detail how the QR code system in St. Petersburg will work.

Read more about it:

  • Why do Russians not get vaccinated? How does the anti-vaxxer community operate? How do you argue with an opponent of vaccines? An anti-pseudoscience campaigner and a scholar who researches fakes answer these questions.

More Die of Heartbreak

St. Petersburg Photo Diary
Facebook
October 23, 2021

Orthodontist jumps from 9th floor of Elizabeth Hospital

The young woman made the jump in front of her fellow patients in the ward. The fact was that she had buried both of her parents in the past two weeks. They were also doctors, by the way.

Darya Khorovskaya followed in the footsteps of her parents: she had worked in her field for 10 years.

She was admitted to the Elizabeth Hospital with complications from an infectious disease just a few days after her mother’s death.

Her fellow patients in the ward said that the young women was heartbroken. She constantly talked about the deaths of her loved ones, blaming the coronavirus.

After the fall, she was taken to the intensive care unit, but they could not save her.

Photo courtesy of St. Petersburg Photo Diary. MK.RU Sankt-Peterburg reported this same story on 17 October 2021. They made clear, however, what is not clear from the Facebook post above: that Khorovskaya was being treated for covid-19 when she took her own life, and that her parents had also died of covid-19. P.S. This is a more typical post on St. Petersburg Photo Diary, which partly explains the self-censorship in their post about Khorovskaya’s suicide. Translated by the Russian Reader

COVID-free

Dear viewers,

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, a period of non-working days will be in effect in Moscow from October 28 to November 7. There will be no changes in our repertoire: we plan to hold all scheduled performances.

PLEASE NOTE!
🔻 From October 28, all performances for viewers over the age of 18 will be COVID-free [in English in the original]: you can attend these performances only if you have a QR code (confirming you are protected from COVID-19).
🔻 A QR code can be obtained:
🔻 after you have been vaccinated.
🔻 by doing a PCR test (valid for 72 hours)
🔻 after recently being ill with COVID-19 (valid for 6 months from the date of recovery).

If you do not have time to get a QR code before your planned outing to the theater, you can present a certificate showing you have received the first dose of a vaccine.

Our partners for ticket refunds:

RAMT website – https://ramt.ru/orders/
Yandex.Afisha – https://widget.afisha.yandex.ru/refund
Kassir.ru – https://msk.kassir.ru/pages/refund
Listim.com – https://listim.com/pages/for_clients_e_ticket
Ticketland.ru – return by registry tickets@ramt.ru

Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience and be healthy!

Source: email newsletter from RAMT (Russian Academic Youth Theater), 22 October 2021. Translated by the Russian Reader

Why Russia Is in No Hurry to Get Vaccinated
Kirill Martynov
Rosbalt
October 15, 2021

Vaccination in Russia is at a shamefully low level: according to official statistics, 31.4% of the country’s residents have received two doses of a covid-19 vaccine. By comparison, this figure is now 64% in Germany. In our country, this has translated into a record number of deaths and the transformation of Russia into a reservoir for the virus’s further evolution. The 42% vaccination rate among older Russians is an especially frightening figure: although they’ve had a whole year to do it, they and their relatives could not be bothered to take care of themselves. It’s as if our national motto were Viva la muerte!

But the behavior of anti-vaxxers in a country like ours is apparently rational. The main source of information about the benefits of the vaccines are government agencies and state media, about which everyone knows that, first, they lie constantly, and second, that they are never called on the carpet for their lies. They lied about the absence of Russian troops in Ukraine, and many rejoiced at this military trick. They lied about pension reform, “which will never happen, because the president is against it,” but in this case no one rejoiced.

Russians know that there is no mechanism for punishing liars. If it turned out that the vaccine was dangerous or useless, no one in the Russian government would be held responsible for it. They would just start lying about something else.

Free and fair elections, which liars can lose, are a basic institution for ensuring responsibility, but we don’t have this institution in Russia, nor is it anywhere on the horizon.

When there is a high level of distrust of everything related to the state, it is not surprising that people are in no hurry to get vaccinated. Without trust, the only way to solve this problem is by force, as was done in the Soviet Union.

On the societal scale, trust is even more fragile and valuable thing than in relationships between individuals: it has to be carefully fostered for decades. The Germans managed to pull it off after the Second World War, but we have not even have formulated this task.

This is also not surprising. A high level of trust within society makes a dictatorship impossible: it is instantly opposed by growing solidarity. For example, in Soviet Poland, this happened in particular because the authorities failed to destroy the influence of the Catholic Church and the network of parishes.

Accordingly, it is vital for a dictatorship to keep trust at a minimum level. That’s why Russia is in no hurry to get vaccinated now. It is a byproduct of authoritarianism’s self-defense against “internal enemies.”

Thanks to Paul Goble, a personal hero of mine, for flagging Martynov’s article on his website Window on Eurasia, which has been essential reading for post-Sovietologists and Russianists for the past seventeen years. Get well soon, Paul! Photo by Aleksander Avilov/Moskva News Agency, courtesy of the Moscow Times. Translated by the Russian Reader