One of Russia’s top law enforcement officers uses a magnifying glass to look at his laptop

The Bell

Photos recently released by the Investigative Committee show its head, Alexander Bastrykin, using a magnifying glass to look intently at the screen of a laptop. The images were taken during a meeting, which was heavily publicized by the Investigative Committee, one of Russia’s most powerful law enforcement bodies.

This prompted such a wave of internet memes and discussion of Bastrykin’s technical incompetence that the Investigative Committee had to offer an explanation (Rus). It turns out Bastrykin was apparently trying to examine the details of a moving image and magnifying glasses in such situations work much better than digital enlargement.

This explanation, in turn, drew even more scepticism and hilarity. But there is also a serious side: the photo shows Bastrykin surrounded by his subordinates: if he didn’t know how to enlarge an image why didn’t his subordinates tell him? Perhaps they also did not know — or perhaps they were too afraid to be seen to be more knowledgeable than their boss.

Why the world should care

The photo with the magnifying glass could have a totally innocent explanation. But social media immediately decided that there was another reason: Bastrykin is technologically illiterate. This is comical in the context of regular government announcements about going digital. And the online sceptical reaction is a perfect illustration of how Russians view the Investigative Committee.

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