News / Europe

New Russian Law Expands Treason Definition

In this Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin heads a meeting in Moscow.
In this Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin heads a meeting in Moscow.
— A new law expanding the definition of high treason in Russia is in effect.  Critics say it gives the government broad authority to brand anyone as a traitor, a charge that carries up to 20 years in prison.

Revised definition

The new law states anyone who possesses information deemed secret could be jailed for up to eight years for espionage - even if the secrets are not passed to foreign hands.  Critics say the new law does not require authorities to prove a suspect damaged state security.

Previous legislation described high treason as espionage or assistance to a foreign state that damages Russia’s external security.  As part of the new law, which was drafted by Russia’s Federal Security Agency, “external” has been dropped from the definition.  As a result, activists who get help or advice from a foreign state or give information to foreign organizations, including journalists, could be charged with treason.

Opposition reacts

The critics say the law is so vague anyone could be charged.

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov maintains the Kremlin is passing many new laws in an attempt to silence dissent.

He says authorities are terribly afraid of their own people; scared that people can say "no" to government officials.  And he says they have decided to use measures that include unlawfully putting people behind bars.  Nemtsov says he is categorically against that.

The maximum sentence for anyone convicted of treason remains 20 years.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power for an unprecedented third term in May, Russia has seen a crackdown on the opposition.  Fines for participating in or organizing unsanctioned protests against the Kremlin have increased more than 150-fold.

New requirements for NGOs

Non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in political activity are now required to register as foreign agents, a term that stems back to Soviet times.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was forced to close its doors after more than 20 years of working to create a civil society in Russia.  The Kremlin claimed the organization was trying to use its money to influence politics in the country.  Washington denies the claim.

The revised treason bill first came up in 2008, during then-President Dmitry Medvedev’s term.  He quickly shelved the bill after public criticism.

Earlier this week, Putin said he would take another look at the treason bill to make sure it was not excessively broad.  Despite the promise, the bill took effect Wednesday.

The Kremlin says many of the new laws that have taken effect since Putin came into office are merely meant to strengthen security and keep the public safe.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid