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Russian parliament to consider ‘antiviral’ package of bills

Many of those were first voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his address to the nation on March 25
A session of State Duma Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
A session of State Duma
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. During a plenary session on Tuesday, both chambers of the Russian parliament are expected to consider a series of bills, intended to mitigate the aftermath of the global coronavirus pandemic for Russian citizens and businesses, and to impose tougher penalties on those violating the quarantine and spreading fake news.

The lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, will consider the initiatives in three readings on Tuesday morning, so that the upper chamber - the Federation Council - could review some of them during its session that begins at 15:00 Moscow time.

Tougher criminal responsibility

One of the initiatives is aimed at toughening penalties for violation of sanitary and epidemiological rules. Under with the current legislation, offenses that triggered an outbreak of a disease or a mass poisoning are now punishable with a fine of 80,000 rubles ($1,000) or community service of 360 hours, or corrective labor of up to one year, or restricted liberty for the same period. If an offense of this kind results in a death of one person, tougher penalties will be imposed, up to a prison term of five years.

Under the proposed law, violations of sanitary and epidemiological regulations that led to a death of one person or creating a threat of a mass outbreak of a disease will be punishable with a fine of up to two million rubles ($25,000) or restricted liberty for up to five years.

If a violation entails an outbreak of a disease or a mass poisoning, fines of between 500,000 ($6,000) rubles and 1 million rubles ($12,500) will be imposed, or liberty restricted for up to three years.

Individuals who spread deliberately false information that led to serious consequences will be punished with a prison term of up to five years. Those who disseminate fake news about circumstances that pose a threat to people’s lives or public health, epidemics included, will face a fine of up to 700,000 rubles ($8,800) or restricted liberty of up to three years.

Fines for quarantine violations and fake news

Apart from criminal responsibility, lawmakers will discuss administrative fines for citizens, including fines of up to 300,000 rubles ($3,800) for healthy citizens who violate quarantine.

If an individual violated quarantine amid an outbreak of an infectious disease, he or she will face a fine of between 15,000 rubles ($200) and 40,000 rubles ($500). The same violation by an official entails a fine of between 50,000 rubles ($630) and 150,000 rubles ($1,900), by a legal entity - between 200,000 rubles ($2,500) and 500,000 rubles ($6,000) rubles or administrative suspension of operations for up to 30 days.

Legislators are also set to impose multimillion fines for legal entities spreading fake news about emergency situations, such as an outbreak. If those fake news resulted in a person’s death, bodily harm or property damage, in a public disorder, or damage to vital infrastructure, it will be punished with a fine of between 5 and 10 million rubles ($63,000-$125,600).

The amendments also introduce fines for unjustified increase in prices of medicines.

Telemedicine and pharmaceuticals

On Tuesday, the State Duma will also consider a bill allowing doctors to provide remote healthcare services. Under the current legislation on telemedicine, doctors are obliged to carry out the initial examination of a patient in person. However, in case of an emergency situation or an epidemic, citizens "are entitled to accessible medical aid, including with the help of telemedicine."

The lawmakers are also to consider a bill easing requirements for online sales of medicines, including prescribed ones. However, the initiative will not be applicable to narcotic and psychotropic substances.

Budget and taxation

The lower chamber of the Russian parliament will also discuss the proposal to levy a tax on bank deposits of 1 million rubles ($12,500) or more. Besides, the Duma will consider in first reading a bill enabling regions to levy their own taxes on self-employed persons.

Besides, the Budget Code is expected to be amended, giving the Russian government a possibility to re-channel budget expenditures without amending the three-year budget law.

The amendment also establishes a parliamentary commission that would authorize budgetary expenditures for anti-coronavirus efforts and measures to protect the economy in 2020. The commissions will include seven State Duma lawmakers and seven Federation Council senators.

Many of the initiatives to be discussed on Tuesday were first voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his address to the nation on March 25.

In his speech, the head of state proposed measures to support citizens and businesses. In particular, such measures include granting a grace period for six months to small and medium-sized companies to pay all taxes, with the exception of VAT, introducing a deferral of payment of bank loans for the same period, a six-month moratorium for bankruptcy of enterprises, which found themselves in a difficult situation.