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‘This only takes 20 minutes!’ Opponents of QR-code vaccine passports take to Instagram to wage ‘mental war’ on Russian governors

Source: Meduza

Russian governors are being bombarded with comments and messages on Instagram, urging them to oppose draft legislation that would impose new QR-code vaccine passport prerequisites for accessing public places and certain modes of transportation. Journalists from Taiga.Info first reported the online campaign on Thursday, November 18, tracing it to conservative Orthodox groups and other organizations that promote so-called “traditional values.” In posts on social networks, these groups called on their supporters to write to their representatives en masse, in an effort to pressure officials to publicly condemn or withdraw the legislation, which could enter force as soon as February 1, 2022.

The Instagram accounts of Russian governors are being flooded with comments from users opposing draft legislation that would expand QR-code vaccine passport requirements, journalists from Taiga.Info reported on Thursday, November 18.

The comments call on Russian governors to condemn or withdraw two draft laws submitted to the State Duma on November 12. If adopted, the legislation would require people to present QR codes documenting either vaccination against COVID-19 or a past diagnosis in order to access many public places and certain forms of transportation. 

In their comments, opponents condemn the draft legislation as “segregatory,” “anti-constitutional,” and “fascist.” “These draft laws are about segregation, apartheid, and humiliating people. We are the people, not a numbered product! Even if they tell us that this is progress and can’t be stopped — give us the opportunity to remain unmarked people!” reads one comment under an Instagram post by Kuzbass Governor Sergey Tsivilev. 

Meduza found similar comments on posts published on the profiles of Karelia’s Head Artur Parfenchikov, Krasnodar krai Governor Veniamin Kondratyev, and the Belgorod region’s Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov

According to Taiga.Info, Orthodox activists and “supporters of traditional values” are behind the online campaign. 

In a post on VKontakte, for example, the conservative Orthodox movement Sorok Sorokov dubbed its campaign against the draft legislation the “Great Patriotic Mental War” — referencing the Russian term for World War II. The group called its supporters “to the front,” urging them to raise the issue with their representatives and governors. 

In another post on Telegram, the Sorok Sorokov movement published links to the Instagram profiles of dozens of regional governors, and called on the channel’s subscribers to send them direct messages and comments demanding the withdrawal of the bills. 

Similarly, a “family protection” group called OUZS published a boilerplate text opposing the draft legislation, and urged its supporters to send this template to their representatives. “Important! We ask everyone to write to at least five to ten deputies per day!” the group underscored. “This only takes us 20 minutes a day! 20 minutes a day that separates us from fascism!”

The two draft laws on expanding the use of QR-code vaccine passports were submitted to the State Duma by the Russian government. The first bill would impose the QR-code prerequisite on access to mass public events, cultural institutions, eateries, and all retailers. The second bill proposes the use of QR codes for passengers on trains and planes traveling internationally and between cities. These new requirements could enter full force as soon as February 1, 2022, and would remain in place until June 1, 2022. 

The bills were put forward at the tail end of an autumn coronavirus surge, characterized by record daily numbers of infections and deaths in Russia. Recently, the number of new cases reported in Russia has begun to decrease, though the country is still registering a daily average of more than 38,000 new infections.

On Thursday morning, Russia confirmed 37,374 new coronavirus cases, as well as 1,251 fatalities — marking a new daily high for the second day running. 

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Text by Eilish Hart

Cover photo: Pixabay

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