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Russian Federation Council backs bill to punish defection during armed conflict as treason

Participation of Russian citizens in armed conflicts against Russia’s interests will also carry a similar penalty

MOSCOW, July 8. /TASS/. The Russian Federation Council Duma passed a bill that would equate defection during an armed conflict involving Russia to treason in the third reading on Friday.

The bill also introduces punishment for Russians if they cooperate with foreign intelligence services and tightens punishment for offenses related to mercenarism.

Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code, which is dedicated to treason, will now be supplemented with a new offense: Defection to the enemy during an armed conflict, hostilities or other actions that involve Russia. This offence will carry a prison term ranging from 12 to 20 years and a potential fine.

Participation of Russian citizens in armed conflicts against Russia’s interests will also carry a similar penalty.

Cooperation with foreign intelligence

The bill also amends the Criminal Code with a new article 275.1 that would punish for cooperation with a foreign intelligence agency or a foreign or international organization. It will carry imprisonment for between 2 and 8 years with a potential fine.

The new article covers actions that are not covered by the definition of treason — "the clandestine establishment and maintenance of contact" with a foreign intelligence agency or organization while knowing in advance that the agency or organization in question acts against Russia’s security.

The article specifies that, by "foreign or international organizations," it means organizations acting in the interest of a foreign intelligence agency, as well as foreign private military or intelligence companies.

If a citizen voluntarily reports such cooperation, without attempting to fulfill their mission, they may be absolved of responsibility.

Actions against Russia’s security

The bill also introduces article 280.4 of the Criminal Code, which lays out punishment for calls to action against Russia’s security or obstructing the authority’s actions on ensuring national security. The article includes a set of aggravating circumstances: a crime committed under conspiracy, through abuse of office, or carried out via mass media or the Internet. If a crime is committed by an organized group or with threats of violence, the penalty will be even harsher.

Punishment for mercenarism

The bill also tightens the penalty for mercenarism under article 359 of the Criminal Code. Under the current legislation, participation in an armed conflict as a mercenary may carry between three and seven years in prison. Under the new legislation, it will carry between 7 and 15 years.

The bill also toughens penalties for recruiting, training and funding mercenaries, and for their involvement in an armed conflict. The prior penalty stipulating anywhere from four to eight years behind bars will now be replaced with 12 to 18-year jail terms. If carried out towards a minor or with abuse of office, the punishment will carry between 12 and 20 years in prison with a fine.