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Beware: High Treason Round the Corner
October 27, 2012 11:48

In an extraordinary fast procedure, the Russian State Duma has broadened the legal definition of espionage as it introduced amendments to the Criminal Code in what the MPs have called an attempt to bolster Russia's national defence.

Deputy Director and State Secretary of the FSB, or Federal Security Service, Yuri Gorbunov called on the deputies to pass the amendments citing changing security needs and higher sophistication of foreign intelligence techniques.

According to the updated law, it’s not only the disclosure of state secrets that will be punishable, that any kind of assistance – financial, material, technical, consultative and any other, for that matter, – to a foreign state, organization or their representatives that is harmful to national security will immediately land you behind bars for up to 20 years on high treason charges. 

You and me under radar

From now on, you don’t need to work at a top secret facility developing unique bombs or have access to classified intel reports, you might unknowingly catch the secret’s bug basically anywhere – during service, work, or education.

If the Russian Federation Council and the president do endorse the amendments, they could always backfire on the deputies themselves – any MP could be locked up after official negotiations with foreign delegations.

If the law is indeed enforced, anyone who works as a tourist guide for foreigners could end up in jail because it still fits into the category of ‘any other assistance’.

While experts point out that incorporating international organizations into the treason definition can compromise Russia’s national interests due to the high level of dependency and cooperation, Mr Gorbunov explains that they have increasingly been used as a cover for espionage activities.

Foreigners' fears

On the espionage side, the class of beneficiaries of the illicit information has been extended to include persons acting on behalf of foreign intelligence services, rather than foreign intelligence services themselves.

The paradox is that the government has repeatedly made declarations that it wants to attract foreign investment, create a comfortable environment for qualified foreigners to work and live in Russia. 

So how many Western financiers, businessmen and scientists will ever want to set foot on the Russian soil knowing they could be easily rounded up as spies.

Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has come out with harsh criticism, saying the bill is in violation of international legal and constitutional principles of criminal law which do not allow for a broad interpretation of criminal liability provisions.

If you need more information on the bill, feel free to contact Russia-IC.

Author: Mikhail Vesely

Tags: State Duma Russian laws Federal Security Service   

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