Putin pushes legislation to curtail opposition

Spiegel reports that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed legislation that would allow Russia’s intelligence service to imprison people for more than two weeks, without involving the courts.

That’s the proposed legislation in bill 364427-5, brought before the government by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is also the former head of the FSB. In the interest of suppressing opposition and taking even tougher action against the Islamic underground movement in the Caucasus, the bill would allow the FSB  (Russia’s domestic intelligence service and the successor to the KGB) to imprison citizens they consider problematic for up to 15 days without even involving the courts.

By boosting the secret service’s powers to fight terrorism, the proposal wins broad public support, despite the fact that such changes run the risk of intensified suppression of the press. After the Moscow Metro attacks that killed 40 people this March, the government wants to take tougher action against the country’s Islamist insurgency. “Despite all measures taken, the number of violent crimes committed by extremists has not fallen,” reads the reasoning behind the law.

The new law will have its repercussions also on the freedom of press. The proposed bill would allow the FSB to preemptively summon journalists for questioning and to demand that articles with “undesirable” news be removed from websites.

Following the Moscow Metro attacks, Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament and leader of Putin’s United Russia party, even equated critical journalists with Doku Umarov, a terrorist leader in the Caucasus, saying their statements were “in the same vein” as those of the terrorist leader. A Moscow district court however rejected a defamation suit by the Russian daily Vedomosti, targeted by Gryzlov’s  criticism.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva doesn’t hold out much hope that Medvedev will obstruct the proposed FSB law. Out of 233 bills brought before the government this legislative period, some 232 have been passed by parliament. “He won’t turn against Putin,” Alexeyeva says.


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