Russia Moves to Broaden Definition of High Treason

"MOSCOW — Russia’s lower house of Parliament on Friday unanimously approved amendments substantially broadening the legal definition of high treason, so it applies not only to acts that jeopardize state security but also to those that undermine 'constitutional order, sovereignty, and territorial and state integrity.' Another proposed change would allow the charge to be applied to Russian citizens providing assistance to foreign states or international organizations. Addressing lawmakers, the deputy director of the Federal Security Service said the step was necessary because foreign intelligence services 'actively use' such organizations 'as a cover and they conduct independent intelligence activities.' To become law, the bill must pass two additional readings and be signed by President Vladimir V. Putin.

Rights activists immediately condemned the initiative. Russian leaders 'have now chosen an ideological course — you can even call it a national idea — to search for external and internal enemies,' Lev A. Ponomarev, a veteran activist, said in an interview with Dozhd TV. Lyudmila M. Alekseyeva, a human rights advocate, told the news service Interfax that she had 'a feeling that they are again pulling down the Iron Curtain.'

Earlier this week, the United States Agency for International Development announced that it would end its 20-year-old program in Russia at the Kremlin’s request. On Friday, the Moscow office of Radio Liberty, which is financed by the American government, announced that it was ending medium-wave broadcasts because of a tough new media law that prohibits such broadcasting when more than 48 percent of an outlet’s founders are foreigners. The station will continue its broadcasts online.

A law passed this summer will require nonprofit organizations that receive foreign financing to identify themselves as 'foreign agents,' a term that evokes cold-war espionage in Russia."