The law under the number 190-FZ on high treason, espionage and disclosure of the state secret, was published in the official governmental newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Wednesday, but entered into force on Thursday. The law evoked serious objections in the civil society. The main claim of the experts is that new provisions of the Criminal Code permit their too broad interpretation.
In the previous version of the law people, who are directly recruited by the foreign intelligence services, came under the term of high traitor, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily reported. Therefore, foreign security services learnt to bypass this provision, setting up international organizations and recruiting Russian citizens through them. In the new version of the law an employee of such organization can be a high traitor, if it is proved that this organization acts against the security of the country. The new article over the illegal acquisition of the information, which constitutes the state secret, was also included in the Criminal Code, on this criminal article the hunters for state secrets are facing up to four years in prison. For the use of various bugs and special equipment to learn about the state secrets, as well as for the dissemination of classified information the high traitors can be sentenced to up to eight years in prison, the newspaper reported.
The bill drafted in the Federal Security Service was submitted in the State Duma in 2008 on behalf of the Russian government and signed by the then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and puzzled the broad public, the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily reported. The bill offered to find as high traitors and sentence from 12 to 20 years in prison not only those, who hand over the state secrets to the enemies that is logical, but those who give “financial, material, consultative or other types of assistance” to other countries, foreign and international organizations or their representatives “in the activities, which are targeted against Russian security.” It is not only foreign security, but security in the broadest sense of the word, as Article 275 of the Criminal Code stipulates now.
In 2008 the bill evoked heated debates and was delayed. In late September 2012 the bill was unexpectedly raised again in the State Duma and approved in the first reading, almost without any debates and almost unanimously. Then, after the approval of several minor technical amendments, the overwhelming majority in the State Duma (375 deputies) voted for the document right in the second and third readings. The newspapers were debating it actively, the Internet was whirling up, the world was astonished, as the Russian state authorities act according to the principle “the dog barks, the caravan goes on.”
On November 1, the group of human rights activists addressed to the president with the appeal not to sign it. In their view, the bill “does not set clear-cut criteria, when the assistance to foreign and international organizations is becoming criminal, leaving this for consideration of the investigation and the court.” Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Svetlana Gannushkina and Valery Borshchev are among those who signed the address.
President Vladimir Putin signed the law on high treason on November 12, on the same day, when he told members of the presidential Human Rights Council that he is ready “to look through it more attentively,” the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily noted.
A source of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily in the State Duma explained that the scandal stirred up on Wednesday affects most of all presidential close aides, but not the president. They attended a meeting of the Presidential Council of Human Rights, but did not say to Putin for some unclear reasons, that he will not have enough time to ponder over the law, because two days are left until its signing or turning down. The Federation Council submitted the approved text of the bill in the Kremlin on October 31, so, it was to be signed no later than on November 14.