Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Governors Follow Moscow on Pandemic but Russians in Regions are Suing Them for Doing So

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 – Those governors who are doing what the Kremlin has advised and following Moscow city’s approach to fighting the coronavirus now face a new challenge: the residents of certain regions have now brought suit against them for doing precisely that (7x7-journal.ru/articles/2020/04/06/yuristy-v-regionah-rossii-podali-v-sud-na-gubernatorov).

            So far, lawyers and activists in Moscow itself, the Komi Republic, and Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, Vologda and Orenburg oblasts are suing their governors for seeking to impose Moscow-style isolation which they argue is giving the authorities the power to destroy all their civil rights.

            Now, a group of deputies from the Lipetsk Oblast legislature is planning to do the same, arguing that the governor’s order for obligatory self-isolation and electronic passes is illegal and must be overturned. One deputy, Oleg Khomutinnikov, an organizer of the Federative Party of Russia, explains why to the Region.Expert portal (region.expert/lipetsk-freedom/).

            “We do not consider the introduction of digital passes an effective measure in the struggle with the coronavirus. The governor has not presented any specific arguments in support of his position,” the deputy says.  Besides, such passes “limit the constitutional rights of citizens and the freedom of movement.”

            Indeed, Khomutinnikov says, one has the impression that the introduction of these passes under the cover of the pandemic is “an experiment” that if it succeeds may be extended for other more nefarious purposes. “Certain people are even comparing them with experiments in Nazi Germany.”

            According to the deputy, “the reaction of citizens in Lipetsk Oblast has been extremely negative; and therefore, we as deputies have been obligated at the legislative level to reject all the initiatives of the governor and turn to the courts. Perhaps, digital passes are a good idea for controlling criminals under house arrest but they aren’t for free citizens.”

            Deputies in the regional parliament do not feel constrained about taking such a step, Khomutinnikov says, especially now when even the head of the oblast court has expressed doubts about the legality of such passes (vesti-lipetsk.ru/novosti/obshestvo/predsedatel-lipeckogo-oblastnogo-suda-somnevaetsya-v-zakonnosti-propusknogo-rezhima/).

            What this suggests, of course, is just as some of the governors are slipping out from under Moscow’s control because of this crisis, so too some of the regional governments are slipping out from under the control of the governors, a development that makes central control of the regions far more problematic.

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