— Supplies of premium headphones manufactured by Sennheiser, Marshall, Sony and JBL are running out in Russia, Kommersant writes. Here is the rundown on supplies in St. Petersburg: https://ppr.today/9MGEytX
Finlandization 3.0, apparently, involves joining NATO to keep the Russian imperialists at bay while simultaneously issuing as many Schengen visas as possible to Russian shopping tourists, who are totally clueless, of course, as they make their triumphant return to the hypermarkets of Lappeenranta, the setting of the hit Nordic noir series Bordertown. Its on-the-spectrum protagonist can barely keep his head above the bloodbath routinely unleashed in the town, which in real life is utterly peaceful and lovely. What is not lovely is the utter cynicism of Lappeenranta’s political and commercial elite, who are, strangely, much more like their fictional counterparts than the real town is like its lush but murderous onscreen double. ||| TRR
Russian shopping tourists are now coming by the busload to a border town in Finland, waiting weeks to make the trip: “It’s about time”
The effects of the border’s [re]opening are already visible in Lappeenranta. The number of Russians is nowhere near the record years, but they seem to have purchasing power.
A Sovavto bus from Russia turns in front of the Lappeenranta bus station.
There’s a full load of people exiting the vehicle. One of them is Andrei Kolomytsev of Petersburg. For him, a trip to Finland is a dream come true after a long wait.
“Two and a half years of waiting. It’s about time, ” he sighs.
Last Friday, Russia lifted travel restrictions that it had imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak last Friday.
Kolomytsev had been one of the first to arrive in Finland in his own car. However, his trip was halted at the Russian border in the morning, because Russia unexpectedly opened the border only at 1 p.m. Kolomytsev had already turned around and headed back home.
Now he’s happy to step off the bus.
“I’ll go to a cafe, and buy cheese and other high-quality food. I’ll have a look around after a long time,” Kolomytsev outlines his plans.
He also plans to visit a local car dealership specializing in Volvos to ask about maintenance prices. This is because it is now difficult to get car spare parts in Russia due to Western sanctions. As a result, car maintenance has also become more expensive.
Buses full Buses to Finland from Petersburg are now fully booked. For example, the Ecolines booking portal has no tickets available from Petersburg to Lappeenranta until August 16.
Another bus company, Sovavto, has no seats available until July 26.
The return of Russian shopping tourists to the shops is already visible in Lappeenranta. There are clearly more Russian cars with long plates on the streets and in parking lots.
The number of Russian customers has also increased, for example, at Lappeenranta’s branches of [Finnish hypermarket chains] Citymarket and Prisma.
“The number of Russians has increased since Friday. While it used to be a matter of lone customers, now we are talking about numbers in the dozens,” says Antti Punkkinen, Prisma’s director in Lappeenranta.
Ari Piiroinen, the storekeeper at Lappeenranta’s Citymarket, has a similar message.
“The number of Russians has increased steadily since the weekend, ” he says.
But there is still a long way to go to return to the state of affairs before the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is absolutely not possible to talk about numbers like they were in 2019 or earlier,” Punkkinen says.
He stresses that it has only been a few days since the border opened, so it is still too early to draw conclusions about the future number of Russians.
They’re not visible everywhere However, the increase in Russian shopping tourists is not visible everywhere in Lappeenranta.
For example, the opening of the border has not been felt in terms of shoppers at the IsoKristiina shopping center in the downtown.
“I haven’t noticed any significant change. The number of shoppers is about the same,” says Matti Sinkko, IsoKristiina’s manager.
They’re buying what they used to, and they seem to have money According Antti Punkkinen at Prisma, the contents of the Russian shopping basket appear to have remained more or less unchanged.
“They’re mainly buying foods: cheese, coffee, and baby foods, as well as certain detergents. As far as home and speciality goods are concerned, Russians have been interested in clothes during these few days,” Punkkinen says.
The contents of the shopping bags of Vladimir Vapilov of Petersburg, strolling the aisles at Prisma, seem to bear out Punkkinen’s words.
“I bought jeans and sneakers and cheese and chocolate,” he says.
According to Punkkinen, the Russians also seem to have enough money.
“The Russians seem ready to buy,” he says.
Source: Kalle Schönberg, Yle, 21 July 2022. Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the link. Translated, from the Finnish, by the Russian Reader, who wonders why the residents of Bordertown were not out in droves picketing Russian shoppers.
Petersburg residents grabbed up all the appointments in July to apply for a Schengen visa at the Finnish visa center in the city after it was reported that all restrictions on crossing the border would be lifted.
Finland lifted all anti-covid restrictions on entering the country on June 30, and visa restrictions were lifted on July 1. The scheduling of appointments for processing visa applications was opened a month in advance, and in four days Petersburgers booked all the slots for dates up to and including July 29, writesPetersburg Patrol, citing a source in the visa center.
The source at the visa center could not rule out that “the management [would] add additional slots.” Usually, appointments to apply for visas were scheduled a week in advance.
Before the hype, Petersburgers who previously held two-year Schengen visas were issued them again without any problems.
The Finnish Interior Ministry conjectured that the lifting of restrictions would increase traffic from non-EU countries, in particular, on its eastern border, while the desire of Russians to visit Finland and the number of valid visas issued to Russian nationals would affect the volume of traffic.
Tour operators believe otherwise: the flow of tourists from the Russian Federation will be affected by difficulties with obtaining visas and exchanging currency. Aleksan Mkrtchyan, vice-president of the Alliance of Travel Agencies, noted that the opening of the land border is “certainly a good thing,” from which Finland and residents of Petersburg and the Leningrad Region would benefit. However, it would be Russians who already hold a valid Schengen visa who would be the first to go to Finland, he said.
“It is almost impossible to get a Finnish visa in the near future—[appointments at the visa center] are booked out almost till the end of August,” Mkrtchyan told Interfax.
Petersburgers will be able to travel in large numbers to Finland from July 15—the day on which Russia removes all restrictions on crossing the border, which were introduced in March 2020 due to Covid-19. Upon returning to the country from abroad, Russians will still have to take a PCR test.
In Finland, citizens of non-EU countries have not been required to have a vaccination certificate or a coronavirus test since July 1. Coronavirus testing will also no longer be carried out at border crossings.
The city of Lappeenranta would be prepared, if necessary, to offer its airport as a NATO base: “It will certainly be available if the Defense Forces so wish”
Lappeenranta has not discussed with the Finnish Defense Forces what investments would be involved in possible NATO membership, but in theory the city would welcome them.
The city of Lappeenranta aims to get the maximum benefit if Finland joins NATO.
Political decision-makers and officials in Lappeenranta have expressed the hope that, with membership, even a NATO base could be established in Lappeenranta.
According to Lappeenranta’s city manager, Kimmo Jarva, the idea has come about at a time when the debate on joining NATO has been lively, and because South Karelia is located on the frontier between Europe and Russia.
There has been no discussion of the matter in defense policy circles, nor has there been any discussion with the Defense Forces. However, the city of Lappeenranta hopes that the Defense Forces will make investments in South Karelia due to NATO membership.
“I’ve heard conjectures about the airport, among other things. I’m sure it’s available if the military would like it. As for whether there will be any changes in the locations of the Army Academy and the Defense Forces, I cannot say as I’m a layman,” Jarva says.
According to Jarva, the progress of Finland’s NATO membership bid has given hope to the whole of South Karelia. It brings a sense of security and confidence to companies, for example.
“Companies, for example, believe this is a stable environment. This has been the case all along, but it brings a sense of security and can encourage investments in the region,” Jarva says.
He believes the war will eventually end and ordinary people will again travel across the eastern border.
“NATO membership does not preclude the movement of ordinary people, after things are sorted out first,” Jarva hopes.
Source: Tanja Hannus, Yle Uutiset, 30 June 2022. Translated, from the Finnish, by the Russian Reader
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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].
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
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
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
Snipers, security cameras covered with masking tape, and disinfected snowbanks: a Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery employee talks about the unprecedented security measures for the president’s visit • Galina Artemenko • Novaya Gazeta in Petersburg • 28 January 2022
On January 27, St. Petersburg celebrated the 78th anniversary of the lifting of the Siege of Leningrad. Vladimir Putin came to the city to visit the Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. On the same day, a video was posted on the web showing how veterans who had come with flowers were not allowed to enter the cemetery. A young woman in an orange jacket explained to them, “People who have come just to lay flowers will not get in until three o’clock.”
Novaya Gazeta found the young woman: she turned out to be Piskaryovsky Memorial Complex (PMC) employee Margarita Nikolayeva. We asked here to explain why veterans were not allowed in and who was responsible for what during the president’s visit.
How many days’ notification do you usually get that the president is coming to the cemetery?
Vladimir Putin has not come for the last couple of years. We knew for sure that the president would come this year on January 24. On the same day, we posted an announcement on the PMC’s official website that the memorial would be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. o’clock. This information was given to us by the FSO (Federal Protective Services). Our employees shared the same information with everyone who telephoned to find out about the possibility of visiting the PMC on January 27. Several dozen people called a day.
Did you announce this on radio and TV, where it was more likely that older people who do not use the Internet would hear the news?
No, as far as I know, we didn’t.
In the comments under the video on the internet, you are accused of being the one who ordered not to let anyone in. What really happened?
It’s not my first year working for the PMC, and I know that every year there are people who come to lay flowers but have not looked at our the website, and they have to be told that it’s pointless to wait outside, especially in the cold. So I went up to the police and asked what to say to people who were expecting to be let through any minute. They pointed to the FSO officers: they said they were in charge.
The FSO officers clearly replied that no one would be allowed on the grounds until three in the afternoon. I exited the perimeter and told this to the people waiting outside.
Had it ever happened before that people came on January 27, but were not allowed in?
Yes, and last year it was like that too. People would come and wait for the delegation (Beglov, the Legislative Assembly, and other dignitaries) to go through, and then they would be let in, usually around noon. I believe that on such an important day for Petersburgers, everyone should be let into the cemetery without restrictions. But this is my personal point of view. Unfortunately, I do not decide such matters.
But this year everything was complicated because of the president’s visit. It was announced that the cemetery would be closed until three. In fact, they began letting people in not at 3:00 p.m., as the FSO had said they would, but at 1:30 p.m., when the president left the memorial. But still many people stood in the cold for two hours or so. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said people waited for ten minutes. That wasn’t so.
People were just left to stand outside at the entrance? Were they not invited inside the pavilion to warm up and drink hot tea?
How is the commemorative ceremony involving high-ranking officials organized?
Usually, the Smolny’s social policy committee sends us a list of organizations: the governor, the Legislative Assembly, the Federal Assembly, and the judges of the Constitutional Court are all arranged in hierarchical order. We print their names on pieces of paper, put them on music stands, take them outside, and arrange them so that no one, for example, stands in front of the governor.
I know that the social policy committee (which is in charge of the PMC) starts making the lists around two weeks before the ceremony. [Current Petersburg governor Alexander] Beglov is included automatically. I also never noticed any special preparations before visits by [former Petersburg governor] Valentina Matviyenko. At most, her protocol staff would come to the PMC to find out the details of the ceremony.
How was this presidential visit to the cemetery different from the previous ones?
The fact that he (the president) walked completely alone, that the security cameras were covered with tape, that the wreath stand was moved away from the sculptures, and that the snow was disinfected. The harshest preparations began at 8:30 a.m. on January 27. Metal detectors were set up: this had never been done before. A metal fence was set up on the opposite side of the Avenue of the Unvanquished, and public transport stopped making stops at the cemetery in the early morning.
They covered the security cameras with tape? Why?
The ones that were next to the Motherland monument, where the wreath laying took place, were covered with ordinary masking tape. We didn’t ask why. Probably for security reasons: so that [FSO] officers could not be seen next to the president.
We have a sound engineer’s room, and the cameras that were taped up feed into this room. The sound engineer turns on the music, the metronome, and the anthem, unless a military band is playing. To turn everything at the right time, he needs to have a view of the grounds. So, after the security cameras were covered with tape, they left him a small window so that he could see only the spot to which the president walked.
A photo of snipers standing on the roof of the museum pavilion has been posted on the web. Is it a fake?
No, it’s not a fake. I saw them with my own eyes on the roof of the pavilion (the pavilion on the right side, if you stand with your back to the Avenue of the Unvanquished). There were also snipers in previous years. The picture was taken from inside the memorial: the snipers were aiming towards the Motherland sculpture, that is, where the laying of flowers would take place.
You mentioned that the snowdrifts were disinfected. It sounds funny, although in fact, what’s so funny about it? What did it look like? How many people were involved? Did the snow color change from this treatment? Did it smell? Was the snow treated in previous years?
I can’t say for sure. I wasn’t on site at that moment, my colleagues were there. About half an hour [before the ceremony], a special vehicle arrived: people got out, treated the snowdrifts with something, and left. The snow has never been treated before. There were other precautions: the wreath-bearers were brought from Moscow, where they were quarantined for two weeks. They were brought to the cemetery in a special vehicle and dropped off. They rehearsed with the wreath at a distance from everyone else.
All images courtesy of Novaya Gazeta. Translated by the Russian Reader
“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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
The dissident poet Aron Atabek has died in Kazakhstan, weeks after being released from 15 years as a political prisoner.
Atabek, 68, died in hospital on 24 November, where he was being treated for Covid-19. Years in prison, beatings by guards, and long stretches of solitary confinement had taken their toll on his health.
In the weeks prior to his death, Atabek’s family had released photos of the poet, weighing 50 kilos and emaciated – down from a healthy 85 kilos when he was jailed in 2006.
Atabek had been arrested for his part in defending the Shanyrak shanty town, set up by homeless people outside Almaty – a key chapter in the history of resistance to the authoritarian regime of Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Friends of Aron Atabek, members of his family and participants in opposition movements gathered on 28 November at the statue of the poet Abai Kunanbaev in Almaty. They read poems, and demanded that the Shanyrak case be reviewed.
We believe that the responsibility for the death of the poet Aron Atabek lies entirely with the [Kazakh] authorities. They passed an illegal sentence on Aron when they imprisoned him. The deterioration of Abatek’s health, and his death, is on their conscience. Aron Atabek stayed true to his principles to the end of his life. He did not agree to an amnesty, he did not once beg for forgiveness from Nazarbayev, and he never became disillusioned with what he himself did. For us he remains the same, unbending, a Kazakh samurai.
Atabek had been politically active in democratic and nationalist circles since late Soviet times (the 1980s). In the 2000s, the price of oil, Kazakhstan’s main export, rose, the elite accumulated vast wealth, the gap between rich and poor yawned still wider – and Atabek paid the price for defending the dispossessed.
The Shanyrak shanty-town was a sanctuary for those who suffered most in the oil boom, and the construction frenzy that it financed, when developers grabbed land with scant regard for the law. It is estimated that, when it was destroyed by a violent, illegal police operation, it comprised more than 2000 dwellings with up to 10,000 residents.
The notorious police clearance of Shanyrak took place shortly after the promulgation on 5 July 2006 of the law “On Amnesty and Legalisation of Property”.
The city authorities, citing shanty-town dwellers’ failure to register their properties correctly, ordered them to leave. Atabek and other oppositionists argued that the real reason was that the authorities wanted to make more land available to developers.
Atabek lobbied parliamentarians, wrote articles, organised petitions and reminded the shanty-town dwellers of constitutional rights that protected them. But pleas by Atabek and other activists went unheeded.
The police tried to clear the shanty-town forcibly, and a violent clash ensued in which a police officer died. A round-up of activists followed.
Atabek was tried and convicted in October 2007 of “orchestrating mass disorder” – despite there being no evidence that he was nearby when the clashes occurred. Atabek was offered a pardon in exchange for admitting guilt, but he vehemently refused.
At his core, Atabek was a nationalist. He was on the square in December 1986 when students and activists in Almaty protested the appointment of Gennady Kolbin, an ethnic Russian, to head the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. The police repression of the riots turned the events into a dark page in the country’s history. During “Jeltoqsan” (December in Kazakh), the authorities ordered a violent repression of the demonstrations, which resulted in several dead. The Soviet establishment never allowed for a transparent investigation and trial over the violence.
On the eve of independence in 1991, Atabek was instrumental in the creation of the Alash National Independence Party. In the 1990s, fearing repercussions for his political positions, he continued his activism from Russia and Azerbaijan. He returned to Kazakhstan in the early 2000s and founded the public association “Kazakh Ulty” (Kazakh Nation), through which he criticised Nazarbayev, at a period of heightened political struggle.
In the mid-2000s Kazakhstan’s most important oil contracts were finally drawing financial windfalls, while Nazarbayev was consolidating his power in the face of growing opposition movements. Furthermore, the economy’s reliance on the US dollar and the housing boom in Almaty were a foreboding tale of the long-lasting effects of the global financial crisis of 2007. The Shanyrak events were essentially an explosive cocktail, the product of the unstable situation in the country.
The repression of opposition movements, the arrest of Atabek, and later on the violent reaction to the strikes in the oil town of Zhanaozen were stepping stones in the consolidation of Nazarbayev’s grip on power and the insurance policy on a season of political stability.