Canceling QR-codes Russian lawmakers withdraw controversial vaccine pass bill from consideration

Donat Sorokin / TASS

The Russian State Duma Council unanimously agreed to withdraw from consideration a controversial bill that would require QR-code vaccine passes for accessing many public spaces, parliamentary speaker Vyacheslav Volodin announced on Monday, January 17.  

“I’d like to say thank you to everyone for the feedback. It’s important to listen to each other. This will allow us to avoid mistakes and to develop the right solutions on the basis of dialogue,” Volodin wrote on Telegram. 

The decision came after earlier reports from several government officials (including Volodin himself) that consideration of the draft law had been postponed indefinitely. 

The bill, which was submitted to the State Duma by the Russian government in November and approved in the first reading on December 16, would have required people to present QR codes documenting either vaccination against COVID-19 or a past diagnosis in order to visit many public places, including restaurants, cafes, and shops. The legislation was accompanied by a second bill mandating QR-codes for accessing certain forms of transportation — an initiative the State Duma shelved in mid-December, citing popular backlash.

Backstory

‘This only takes 20 minutes!’ Opponents of QR-code vaccine passports take to Instagram to wage ‘mental war’ on Russian governors‘Without waiting for federal orders’ While Russia’s State Duma and Cabinet drag their feet over vaccine passport prerequisites, regional authorities test drive similar measuresQR codes? Not worth it. A draft bill on introducing vaccine proof on public transport was removed from the Russian State Duma’s agenda. Here’s why.

Just last Friday (January 14), President Vladimir Putin instructed both State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and the Russian Cabinet to rework the remaining vaccine pass bill. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that this assignment will be scrapped since the bill has been withdrawn from consideration. 

As Meduza reported previously, the adoption of the QR-code vaccine pass legislation was stymied by a split in the Cabinet, as well as pushback from officials in Putin’s administration. On top of worries that the proposed requirements would have a negative impact on Russia’s economy, popular resentment provoked fears in the Presidential Executive Office that implementing the legislation might bring down the president’s ratings. 

The contentious draft law has been withdrawn from consideration just as Russia is heading into yet another coronavirus wave. On January 12, President Putin told the government that the country had a “couple of weeks” to prepare for the next spike in cases, underscoring the need to increase the rate of vaccination against COVID-19. As of Monday, 76.5 million Russians have been fully vaccinated against the virus.

Also on Monday, Russia reported 30,726 new coronavirus cases and 670 deaths. This brings the country’s total case tally since the start of the pandemic to over 10.8 million. 

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Story by Eilish Hart

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