Duma Passes Watered-Down FSB Bill

The State Duma passed in a key second reading Friday 9 July a weakened bill that allows the Federal Security Service to warn people about crimes it thinks they might commit but doesn’t carry punishments for those who do not comply.

The much assailed initial draft proposed fines and short-term detentions for people who ignore FSB warnings, but the revised version introduces no sanctions for such conduct.

The warnings — dubbed “special prophylactics” in the bill — will also not be published in the media, and people will not be obliged to come to FSB offices to be issued a warning, as the earlier draft proposed.

The controversial bill was watered-down after protests by rights groups. Rights activists had said the proposal, in a bill to expand the FSB’s powers, would have enabled it to detain opposition activists and independent journalists and undermine President Dmitry Medvedev’s promises to foster civil rights.

Only United Russia deputies supported the watered-down version of the bill. The Communist and Just Russia factions criticized it as a “crackdown on dissenters,” and the Liberal Democratic Party considered it too soft, Kommersant reported Saturday.

The liberal Yabloko party said the bill aimed to suppress public protests. “People don’t understand that the secret services are trying to get a foothold to pursue a further offensive against society,” Yabloko head Sergei Mitrokhin said. “And the opposition parties will feel it in the next regional elections in October.”

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  1. Russia signs law to expand KGB-style power

    (AFP) – 1 day ago

    MOSCOW — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday signed into a law a bill expanding the powers of the successor to the Soviet-era KGB security service, the Kremlin said in a statement.

    The bill, criticised by rights groups, would allow the Federal Security Service (FSB) to issue official warnings to individuals whose actions are deemed to be creating the conditions for crime.

    Rights groups say the bill would essentially put the special service above the law and harks back to Soviet times when the much-feared FSB predecessor KGB used warnings to persecute dissidents.

    The bill had already sailed trhough the lower and upper houses of parliament.

    The opposition says the FSB security service is already extremely powerful and empowering it further would contravene Medvedev’s pledge to liberalise Russia.

    In response to protests from human rights activists, lawmakers earlier removed an amendment allowing the FSB to summon people to their offices to hand out the warnings and also publish their warnings in the media.

    Medvedev earlier this month launched a staunch defence of the law, saying its aim was to improve Russian legislation and had been drawn up on his personal orders.

    “Every country has a right to fine-tune its legislation, including in respect to special services,” he said. “And what is happening today — I would like you to know that — has been done on my direct instructions.”

    Under the 2000-2008 presidency of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, the FSB dramatically increased its influence over Russian society.

    Human rights activists had hoped his successor Medvedev, a lawyer by training without a KGB past, would put the special services in check.

    But Medvedev’s critics say the Kremlin chief has promoted only cosmetic reforms and Russians have not become freer under his rule.

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