Staunton, October 23 –Russian President Vladimir Putin this week has signed a new law that holds regional and local officials responsible for ethnic peace on their territories, an action that simultaneously deflects responsibility from the Kremlin, gives the center a whip hand over such officials, and likely forces them to take a harder line on Moscow’s behalf.
But even as that law is going into force and being debated – see, among others, svpressa.ru/society/article/76234/ grani.ru/Politics/Russia/President/m.220377.html and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5266DF09B27D1 – three other pieces of legislation are going forward that is even more curious and more disturbing.
First of all, the Duma has approved on first and second reading a new government-backed law that will prevent anyone condemned for extremism to create a new social or religious organization, a measure that the KPRF has criticized for the risk that it will be used against anyone the government doesn’t like (kommersant.ru/doc/2324176 ).
Deputy Justice Minister Yury Lyubimov justifies this measure as a necessary step to ward of “threats to national security.” But he was unable to answer challenges from Communist deputy Anatoly Lokot about what mechanisms the draft legislation has to ensure that “political criticism will not be equated with extremism.”
Second, the Communists themselves, KPRF head Gennady Zyuganov said, are planning to submit to the Duma sometime in November a draft law that would impose criminal penalties, including jail time, on anyone who called for the division of the Russian Federation into two or more states (ingria.info/lenta/868-2013-10-19-09-35-24).
To be charged under its terms, Zyuganov said, an individual or group would not have to take any action beyond making a declaration about the disintegration of the Russian Federation as a desirable goal. The KPRF leader aid that he believes that “the citizens of the country will support us.”
And third, a Moscow city duma deputy has proposed introducing into the Russian criminal code a provision that would impose a fine of up to 40,000 rubles (1300 US dollars) as well as imprisonment for up to a year for any insults directed at local officials (izvestia.ru/news/559211).
Other deputies said that such a measure was necessary to protect local officials who are just doing their jobs and would not in any way suppress political discourse. In its report, “Izvestiiya” quoted a retired MVD colonel as saying that jail time wasn’t necessary; the imposition of fines would be enough.
Those are just three pieces of legislation wending their way through Moscow. Meanwhile, another development in the legal sphere outside of Moscow is worth noting. Despite President Putin’s claims to have restored “a common legal space” in Russia, officials in various regions are interpreting Russian law in diametrically opposite ways.
The latest instance of this has to do with the right of officials under Russian law to issue “preventive” warnings to organizations and individuals. An official in Chuvashia says that such warnings are illegal (sobkorr.ru/news/52666545B840A.html), but one in Ryazan says they are not (sobkorr.ru/news/52665CCFCBD8D.html).