Russia’s Foreign Minister: ‘We Must Prevent Violations of Human Rights’ With Vaccine Passport Implementation

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Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Sochi on May 13, 2019. Russia’s Foreign Minister said countries must not violate human rights or the rights of travellers in any form of vaccine certificate or vaccine passport rollout during a press conference in China on March 22.

Russia’s Foreign Minister said vaccine passport schemes must not violate human rights and also wore a mask that appeared to speak out against pandemic lockdown measures during a visit to China on March 22. 

According to Russian media outlet TASS, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference with multiple Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media sources, “The use of the so-called ‘vaccination passports’ is under discussions” because governments are trying to think of “ways for the normal functioning of countries, peoples and citizens in the[se] times, when the coronavirus infection remains to be a serious challenge for many regions of the world.”

On March 9, the CCP rolled out a vaccine passport scheme distributed through Tencent’s WeChat, a heavily surveilled and censored platform Chinese citizens rely on for both communication and payment processing in the communist country’s social credit scheme. The Party’s QR code-based passport system only applies to Chinese citizens, is theoretically voluntary, and only registers injections from the Chinese-made variants of the vaccine. The CCP has been using a similar QR code-based contact tracing system, which citizens are required to show at government-run checkpoints and entry to businesses since early 2020. 

Failure to produce a green-coloured response from a central government server at a checkpoint can result in immediate detention and quarantine by Party authorities.

Of both the Chinese and the proposed European Union vaccine certification systems, Lavrov urged caution and suggested countries give “extra consideration and all-embracing evaluation of these initiatives… taking into account the principle of the voluntar[y] vaccination and equal approach, in order to make possible innovations mutually acceptable in any country,” so as to not create “new division lines.”

Russia’s top diplomat emphasized, “We must prevent violations of human rights and the rights of a traveler in case such [a] certificate – I don’t want to call it a passport – is absent.”

“People travel a lot. This is a fact of life, the new reality of the international life.”

U.S. Centers for Disease Control paper COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card laid atop a Russian flag in a stock photo. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wore a mask with the words “FCKNG QRNTN” during his March 22 trip to China. The Russian Foreign Ministry said “Both the mask and the slogan suited the minister just right.”
U.S. Centers for Disease Control paper COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card laid atop a Russian flag in a stock photo. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wore a mask with the words “FCKNG QRNTN” during his March 22 trip to China. The Russian Foreign Ministry said “Both the mask and the slogan suited the minister just right.” (Image: Jernej Furman via Flickr CC BY 2.0) 

Lavrov said that regardless of any certification or passport system, the Russian Federation was establishing a database of who had received their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, “As of today, our current experience [is] in the stage of the formalization and stipulates the provision that anyone, who received a jab has the right of getting a ‘vaccination certificate’ either in written or digital forms. The data is entered into the federal registration list.”

Russia’s Foreign Minister sends mask message 

Earlier in the day, Lavrov was filmed on the bank of southwestern China’s Lijiang River, wearing a black mask with white letters cursing coronavirus quarantines.

According to Daily Mail, Lavrov received the mask as a gift from journalists for his 71st birthday. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated on social media there was no mistake about the mask or its meaning, “Both the mask and the slogan suited the minister just right.” 

Lavrov changed to a basic blue non-N95 medical respirator mask when he met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. 

At the beginning of the month, Lavrov was asked what he thinks about European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s proposal for a vaccine passport system during an interview published by Russian public broadcaster VGTRK, where he said “This idea has received an ambivalent response from the European countries.”

“The attitude towards this kind of bureaucracy in Brussels is not just ambitious, but also very serious. Many people say this idea contradicts the rules of democracy because the EU countries have already decided that vaccination is voluntary.”

“The introduction of a COVID passport will be at variance with this principle of choice. So people will be forced to be vaccinated if they want to travel,” he said, adding, “Meanwhile in Europe people can hardly imagine their life without travel in the EU countries.” 

Early in March, scandal-plagued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the implementation of a vaccine passport regime using a proprietary IBM blockchain would be required for state residents who wished to attend sporting events, theatres, and certain businesses. 

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  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.