Staunton, September 17 – As soon as the pandemic began, the Russian authorities recognized that they could use it to limit the possibilities of Russians to take part in protests and immediately introduced restrictions in 71 regions, the independent rights group OVD-Info says in a new 3600-word report (ovdinfo.org/reports/svoboda-sobraniy-na-fone-pandemii#2).
Moreover, the powers that be used the occasion to effectively eliminate the divisions that had existed in Russian legislation between various kinds of public assembly thus allowing the authorities to employ at their discretion punishments intended for one kind of protest against any and all others, Denis Shedov, one of the report’s authors says.
And while these restrictions supposedly were related to the pandemic, only in 15 of the 71 regions did officials include in their orders provisions that would call for these limits to be lifted when the pandemic ends, thus opening the way for them to retain such controls indefinitely.
Even when other pandemic-related restrictions like going to restaurants or museums are lifted, these limitations have rarely been at least for any political activity directed against the authorities. For example, in Moscow, one can go back to restaurants but can’t take part in individual picketing if the authorities choose to apply the restrictive order rather than the law.
Rights activists say that the situation has deteriorated in recent months as officials recognize that they can invoke the pandemic to justify almost any restrictions they want to impose (vtimes.io/news/pandemia-protiv-svobody).