(New York, NY) – Russian authorities in Nizhny Novgorod, a region some 250 miles east of Moscow, have reportedly introduced a QR code-based system, via an online app, to track the movement of citizens who need to leave their homes during the city’s lockdown. Similar measures are being planned for Moscow. PEN America’s Eurasia director Polina Sadovskaya said the following:

“For weeks, the Russian government has failed to undertake serious measures in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and tackling it efficiently. Instead, it preferred to silence the voices of those who reported truthfully and took the responsibility of informing the population about the pandemic’s risks. In the context of a Russian regime that constantly seeks greater control over its people, the introduction of new surveillance measures that enable authorities to track an individual’s location should raise alarm bells. Any measures that are deemed necessary for public health reasons need to also prioritize citizens’ privacy and include safeguards to prevent the tools from being abused. While the government has begun cracking down even on doctors–head of the Russian organization Doctors’ Alliance, Anastasia Vasiliyeva, was detained this week while distributing protective gear to doctors fighting the pandemic–vigilance is necessary to ensure that surveillance measures put in place do not outlast this pandemic. Under Putin’s leadership, it is wise to question whether any such policy truly serves the public interest, or solely the government’s grip on power.”


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