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

Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid