‘VICTOR B’ WRITES — How do clashes in Russia, between police and the public, look right now, when most other nations are struggling to maintain safe and healthy environments? Not good. Orwellian, in fact? The Russian government now requires issuance of a ‘QR’ code to every citizen wanting to walk outside their house during COVID-19.  What’s more, those codes can be used just twice weekly, and only for necessities such as groceries, doctor visits or real emergencies.

While promising to support and sustain people during this pandemic, the Russian government’s tracking policies instead have resulted in a kind of organized police anarchy. Here’s why: Police officers in Russia receive a very low minimum wage, which motivates them to accept bribes and to make fraudulent arrests – just to feed themselves. And so, police are aggressive: Citizens casually walking down the street may be stopped by a group of officers who stress and pressure them, ultimately frightening them into custody. Arrests can lead to torture and gross disrespect, which is why people are compelled to pay their way out of such interactions. Many have noticed that police officials mostly target the old and frail or unaccompanied individuals. Russian Instagrams are full of videos with police taking mother-children pedestrians and elderly people on a regular basis.

Police pressure techniques are very complicated, but some of them include physical attacks, seizure of possessions and threatening to charge an individual with nonexistent criminal cases if they won’t pay their way out of the police offices.

Like many other parts of the world, Russian citizens are quarantined at home. For many this is like a death sentence, because 98% of the population is fully dependent on their daily wages. Instead of getting government support or at least some attempts to mitigate this terrible situation, they get QR codes. Then come debt collectors who received the addresses and contact info from QR codes.

Yes, Orwell lives, in Russia.

Viktor B is the nom de plume for a student with family back in Russia.

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