Putin out to silence his critics with a range of new laws

 

Moscow

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.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back