News / Europe

Russian Opposition Sees Shadow of KGB in New Security Bill

Russia's upper house of parliament has approved a controversial bill expanding the powers of the domestic security agency. Opponents say the new law will make the agency more like its Soviet-era predecessor the KGB.

A new bill approved by the Russian parliament gives the country's domestic intelligence agency, known as the FSB, the power to issue warnings to people suspected of plotting crimes.

It passed by a large majority in the Duma with the support of the ruling United Russia party headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Following approval by the Federation Council, the bill now goes to President Dmitri Medvedev for his signature.

Sergei Markov, a Duma deputy and member of United Russia, supports the bill, and says the changes it will bring have been greatly exaggerated by opponents.

"It's almost nothing. It just the right to send some kind of warning to the people the FSB has information that their activity could potentially lead to a contradiction to the law," said Markov. "I think criticism of this law is more propaganda."

He says mostly the law is intended to confront terror threats originating in the North Caucasus, the scene of ongoing violence linked to Islamist extremists. As an example of how the law could be helpful, he says it could alert non-governmental organizations that terrorists are attempting to infiltrate their ranks.

But some rights groups believe the new law has an alternate purpose: to stifle dissent and to scare political activists away from holding protests and rallies.

Markov says that is not the case and that there are no consequences for ignoring a warning from the FSB.

"After receiving such general warning from FSB, every political figure has the right to do what they really want to do," added Markov. "If they really want to organize a protest rally they can do this very easily and pay no attention to such kind of warning."

Rights activist Ludmilla Alexeeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, is not convinced. She says the new law reminds her of a warning she received for her political activities in 1974, when KGB agents arrived at her place of work in a black car and immediately detained her.

She says a lot will depend on how Russians respond to it.

She says "People might protest actively against FSB intrusion into their personal and social life, or the might behave like scared rabbits." She adds, "Let's wait and see. Some laws just don't work."

Hoping to get wider backing, supporters watered down the legislation. Initially under the legislation, if FSB, suspected a citizen of preparing to commit a crime, the agency could summon the person for an interview. Failing to appear could mean jail time. That language was removed.

Opposition groups have been actively protesting the bill as it has moved through parliament. Three activists with the liberal Yabloko party were reportedly detained Friday as they protested outside the Duma.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs