2 May 2020
Hi. It’s Tanya Torocheshnikova. This week, Putin made his usual address to the people. This time, the Pechenegs and Polovtsy didn’t show up to help. We did learn that we’d managed to slow the progression of the virus but that the plateau still lies ahead – I wonder if this now means it’s going to take us longer to get there.
What else was there? Well, with just a flick of the wand, workdays can be magically transformed into days off (and salaries? Now there’s a fairy tale!). We also learned that 28 April would now be Emergency Service Workers’ Day. No doubt that’s also some kind of magic ceremony to fight the virus. Hey, why not throw in a sacrifice? I hear that sometimes works.
But while one lot are off doing some magic hand-waving, others are labouring away, too, tackling the virus their own way. For example, by hiking the fines for fake news and extending the successful Moscow trial of digital permits to leave the house to the whole country. But in order to ensure that unruly Russians who’ve nothing to eat and have to work stay at home, they have to come up with new ways to catch and punish them.
For example, they could start by monitoring people’s movements with cameras. Our lawyer Lera Vetoshkina explains who’s already being tracked, who isn’t yet, who’s getting info on all your trips outside a 100m-wide radius of your house, and why that’s not legal.
If you head out often enough, the camera nearest to the door of your apartment building will begin to recognise your face. In Moscow, there are over one 100,000 facial recognition cameras, and there’s already a lot they can do. Another of our lawyers, Arina Nachinova, investigated how they work, where your data is being sent, and who they’re going to keep really tabs eye on.
“It is necessary to introduce security measures commensurate with the circumstances,” explained the president in his address. But he didn’t say a thing about how ‘commensurate to the circumstances’ it is to close businesses, parks, and sporting venues without any form of compensation for people who have lost their income. Nor did St Petersburg’s Governor Beglov, who’s introduced a ‘state of heightened preparedness’. Petersburgers didn’t prepare for anything, and instead went to court to challenge Beglov’s order and demand explanations for why there were restrictions in place but no support. Our lawyers prepared a case and represented the claimants in the proceedings. This week, the court dismissed the claim. We‘re waiting for the ruling and, as soon as we have it, we’ll tell you our next steps.
Meanwhile, to take our mind off all the quarantine madness, we’ll keep going with the stories about how Russia ended up in complete lockdown and became a police state. This week, our ‘Russia Shuts Down’ podcast features the story of the first public protest on Red Square. Its organiser, Anatoly Osmolovsky, tells us how he and his companions lay down and used their bodies to form the ‘F’ word in front of the mausoleum to protest a law on morality, and what they did to him as a result. Listen to us wherever you want – on Apple Podcasts, Google, on Yandex.Music, VKontakte (VK), Castbox, Simplecat, or Youtube.
It’s a pretty scary fairy tale we’re in here for the time being, but there’s bound to be a happy ending.
Tanya and Team 29
Translated by Lindsay Munford