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Russia may introduce bill on recognizing individuals as foreign agents in 2019

By the upper house's estimates, the law may enter into force in 2020

MOSCOW, November 8. /TASS/. The bill on recognizing individuals as foreign agents, the first reading of which was approved by the Russian State Duma in January 2018, may be approved fully by the end of the year, Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty and Prevention of Interference in Russia’s Internal Affairs Andrei Klimov told reporters on Friday.

"To our mind, this document is at a high level of development, it can be implemented in its second and third reading. It is up to our colleagues from the Russian State Duma [lower house — TASS] to decide. If they do it before the end of the year, I think that the Federation Council can also make a decision on the matter after receiving the documents," Klimov said.

He added that according to the estimations of the Federation Council, the law would enter into force in 2020.

The senator noted that Russian media outlets working abroad, namely in the US and various European states, are under significant pressure. "We have talked about retaliatory measures," he recalled.

Klimov explained that Russian MPs plan to expand the existing law on foreign agents to include individuals as well as legal entities on the list of foreign agents. "This implies not only owners of a [media] resource, but also those who spread information to an unrestricted number of persons, namely on the Internet, receiving funding from abroad. In this case, the source of the money does not matter: it can be a state organization, a non-government body, an individual, a stateless person. What matters is that the funding remains foreign," he noted.

Such an individual can continue acting in the way they see fit, however, they will be bound by certain restrictions and must be registered at the Russian Ministry of Justice, providing the corresponding documents, the senator added.

In late 2017, Russia introduced a law on media outlets exercising the role of foreign agents. According to the law, a media outlet receives the status of a foreign agent if it obtains funding from abroad. In January 2018, the Russian State Duma approved the first reading of another bill that obliges all media with the status of foreign agents to establish a Russian legal entity to work in Russia and also provides for declaring individuals as foreign media agents. This move came as a response to the demands of the US Department of Justice for RT America (the US branch of the Russian television network) to register as a foreign agent in the United States.