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‘Without waiting for federal orders’ While Russia’s State Duma and Cabinet drag their feet over vaccine passport prerequisites, regional authorities test drive similar measures

Source: Meduza

When the Russian Cabinet put forward draft legislation on introducing QR-code vaccine passport prerequisites at the federal level, many expected the State Duma to push the bills through swiftly. Instead, a decision was made to shunt the legislation to the regions for feedback, ahead of parliamentary committees reviewing the documents in mid-December. Russia’s Udmurt Republic, Primorsky Krai, and Ryazan Region have already announced their support for the bills, which would require QR codes for access to many public places and certain modes of transportation. However, the draft legislation isn’t scheduled to go to the floor of the State Duma in December. As Meduza previously reported, the Cabinet and the Kremlin have yet to decide on the fate of the bills. In the meantime, the vast majority of Russia’s regions are already test driving their own versions of the proposed QR-code system. 

Update: According to the State Duma’s planned calendar, the first reading of the draft legislation on QR-code vaccine passports is scheduled for December 16.

Tatarstan: No QR code? No public transport.

New rules came into effect in Russia’s Tatarstan on Monday, November 22, requiring local residents over the age of 18 to present QR-code vaccine passports (or a medical exemption certificate) in order to access all forms of urban transport, with the exception of taxis. Drivers and conductors check passengers’ QR codes on buses, trolleybuses, and trams; in the Kazan subway, checks are carried out at the turnstiles.

Kazan residents who delay ground transportation or subway departures by trying to board without a QR code may face administrative liability. In addition, passengers who violate anti-coronavirus measures can be fined up to 30,000 rubles ($400) and carriers can be fined up to 300,00 rubles ($4,000).

Since the introduction of the QR-code prerequisite, passenger traffic on public transportation in Tatarstan has dropped by 20–30 percent. On the day the new rules came into force, 2,800 people were denied access to public transport in Kazan alone — 11 local residents were taken away by police due to conflicts over QR codes. One passenger not only refused to provide proof of vaccination, but also pepper sprayed a conductor. He was fined 2,000 rubles ($27) and jailed for five days on charges of “minor hooliganism.”

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Avoiding QR-code chaos Tatarstan becomes the first Russian region to introduce vaccine passport requirements for accessing public transportation

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Avoiding QR-code chaos Tatarstan becomes the first Russian region to introduce vaccine passport requirements for accessing public transportation

Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug: Get vaccinated or self-isolate

In the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug in western Siberia, a number of cities now require unvaccinated residents to self-isolate. These restrictions currently apply in Nefteyugansk, Nyagan, Uray, and in the Kondinsky municipal district. From November 22 to December 5, local residents who don’t have QR-code vaccine passports can only leave home to go to work, visit the pharmacy, grocery store, or doctor, go for a walk in the park or with their dog, or to visit elderly relatives who require assistance. Unvaccinated residents are also required to fill out a special form each time they leave the house. Two cities in the region introduced similar measures back in July.

Kamchatka Krai: Must have a QR code to ride

Since November 23, the far-eastern Kamchatka Krai has required QR-code vaccine passports for boarding intercity trains and flights to local destinations. Alternatively, passengers can present a medical exemption certificate or proof of coronavirus antibodies (the latter certificate is valid for one month). According to the Kamchatka Krai’s Transport Minister Vladimir Kayumov, such rules have effectively been in place in the region since the start of the pandemic, but up until November 23, proof of a negative PCR test was also accepted.

Khabarovsk Krai: Vaccine passports for local flights

“Without waiting for federal orders,” the Khabarovsk Krai’s anti-coronavirus headquarters decided that as of December 1, a QR-code system will be introduced for flights within the far-eastern region. Earlier, the Khabarovsk Krai was mulling the introduction of a QR-code prerequisite for accessing local railway stations and airports, but a final decision hasn’t been made yet. Since November 7, the Khabarovsk Krai has also required passengers to present QR codes for boarding intercity buses and electric trains.

Volgograd Region: No transit pass for you

From October 25, authorities in the southern Volgograd Region banned the sale of long-distance bus tickets to passengers who don’t have proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test. Since November 10, regional residents have also been required to present a QR-code vaccine passport in order to buy transit passes for public transport in urban and suburban areas. 

Ufa (Republic of Bashkortostan): Random checks

On November 23, Ufa Mayor Sergey Grekov gave instructions for random QR-code checks to be carried out on public transport. That said, there’s no vaccine passport prerequisite for boarding public transportation in Russia’s Republic of Bashkortostan — in fact, the regional authorities opted against it, leaving the decision up to the federal government. What will happen to passengers on public transport who don’t have QR codes remains unclear. 

83 out 85 regions have some form of QR-code system 

Only Kalmykia and the Kaluga region have yet to introduce restrictions related to QR-code vaccine passports, the Russian state news agency TASS reported on November 22. Such measures will enter force in these regions on December 1 and December 15, respectively. Ingushetia, Sakhalin, and the Vladimir region currently have the loosest restrictions, only requiring QR codes for those attending public events. Most Russian regions have placed restrictions on visiting cultural and leisure organizations, beauty salons, gyms, cafes and restaurants, as well as non-food stores. 

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The ‘nurses’ vs. the ‘economists’ Draft legislation on QR-code vaccine passports has caused a split in the Russian Cabinet — and the Kremlin isn’t too keen on it either

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The ‘nurses’ vs. the ‘economists’ Draft legislation on QR-code vaccine passports has caused a split in the Russian Cabinet — and the Kremlin isn’t too keen on it either

How do Russians feel about these rules?

Since early November, protests opposing pandemic restrictions, vaccination against COVID-19, and the QR-code system have taken place in Kamchatka, Nakhodka, Chelyabinsk, and other Russian cities.

Around 300 people took part in an sanctioned rally in Yekaterinburg, carrying signs that condemned pandemic measures as “fascism” and “segregation.” One sign in particular, which read “Digitally tagging a person in Russia = renouncing the victory over fascism,” prompted a request for regional prosecutors to conduct an inquiry. Also, two campaigners who protested against QR codes at local shopping malls were jailed for 12 days for disobeying police.

In Volgograd, anti-QR-code campaigners broke into Rospotrebnadzor’s local office and nearly halted the watchdog agency’s work. One campaigner was fined 10,000 rubles ($134) for trespassing in a protected facility and failing to observe rules of conduct during an emergency situation. 

Kazan residents opposed to the restrictions on access to public transport began uniting in dedicated Telegram channels, looking to carpool, rant about QR codes, inform each other about checks at transit stops, and find lawyers to file complaints over the new measures, reports Mediazona. 

Several campaigners from the Chelyabinsk region, Irkutsk, and Taganrog were fined sums ranging from 20,000 ($267) to 150,000 rubles ($2,000) for organizing the filming of a video appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, opposing the introduction of QR codes. In addition, according to OVD-Info, police in the seaside town of Adler detained the secretary of the local Communist Party branch for collecting signatures for a petition opposing QR-code measures.

Story by Olga Morozova

Translation by Eilish Hart

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