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Amended foreign agents bill to concern 20-30 people — Russian senator

According to the lawmaker, to be deemed a foreign agent an individual has to cooperate with organizations that bear this status
The State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS
The State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly
© Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS

MOSCOW, November 12. /TASS/. Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty and the Prevention of Interference in Russia’s Internal Affairs Andrei Klimov claims that the bill on recognizing individuals as foreign agents will concern only some 20-30 people in Russia.

"They [the amendments to the foreign agents bill] differ from what has been presented [to the Russian State Duma] only by the level of detail, so that a great number of people would not be considered foreign agents as individuals. This will concern, in my opinion, about 20-30 people in Russia," Klimov told TASS on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chairman of the Russian State Duma (lower house) Committee for Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications Leonid Levin told reporters that the amendments to the bill aimed to regulate the activity of foreign media by acknowledging their status as a foreign agent include several classifying factors that would help determine the organization or an individual that can receive this status.

In response to a question on whether the amendments include placing an individual on a foreign agents list just for receiving money from abroad, Klimov stressed that this would be impossible. In order to be deemed a foreign agent, one "has to actively cooperate with officially recognized foreign agents in our country," he explained.

"If you just received money, this is the issue of the tax service," the senator told TASS, noting that in order to receive the status of a foreign agent, an individual needs to cooperate "with an officially recognized foreign agent on a permanent basis." According to the Russian law, political activity is the qualifying factor for a person or an organization to be considered a foreign agent.

About the bill

Earlier, 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 those that can potentially be considered 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.