Putin out to silence his critics with a range of new laws
Vladimir Putin's United Russia party pushed two controversial laws through the lower house of parliament yesterday, in what critics said was the latest sign of a crackdown at the beginning of the President's new term in office.
The Duma passed a law that will force any organisation operating in Russia but funded from abroad to brand itself a "foreign agent" on its website and promotional materials, and also cleared the re-introduction of a libel law that was taken off the books last year.
The bills will now need to pass through the upper house of parliament and be signed off by Mr Putin, usually a formality. They are the latest in a series of laws to have been passed since Mr Putin returned to the Kremlin in May, including a bill that raises the fines for unauthorised protests by approximately 120 times. A law on the internet, ostensibly aimed at paedophiles and extremist sites, was also approved by the Duma this week.
Wikipedia closed its Russian-language site in protest at the law, which it says could be used to increase censorship and close down sites the authorities find inconvenient..
The libel law is also, in theory, similar to many laws on the books of other countries, but critics say it is the way the law is implemented that is crucial. A small group of independent and opposition-minded journalists picketed parliament, protesting that the law could be used by authorities to silence journalists from making allegations about corruption and other abuses of power. The maximum fine for libel is now 5m roubles (£100,000).
"The purpose of this law is not to defend the honest name of people, but to worry journalists and bloggers who are trying to uncover things that are inconvenient for the authorities," said Yury Saprykin, a leading Russian journalist.
The Duma itself is dominated by Mr Putin's party, but since street protests against his rule have swelled in Moscow in recent months, the previously loyal Just Russia party has become more of a genuine opposition force.
Yesterday's hearing was marked by scandalous scenes. Just Russia MP Ilya Ponomarev said the Duma was filled with "crooks and thieves" from United Russia, and that by passing the law, journalists would be unable to call them by their real name.
The other law approved yesterday means any non-governmental organisation engaging in political work in Russia with funding from abroad must stamp any material they distribute with "foreign agent".
Human rights and other organisations working in Russia say they have little choice but to take money from foreign donors, as Russian businesses are reluctant to donate to organisations deemed in any way politically sensitive.
"We're seeing Putin's response to the fact that for the first time, he isn't in full control," said political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Tory activist asked to step down after Labour candidate Rupa Huq is 'manhandled' while questioning Boris Johnson on the campaign trail
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
How the language you speak changes your view of the world
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...