Russia toughens ‘foreign agents’ legislation

Russian lawmakers on Wednesday passed legislation that broadens the definition of “foreign agents,” a label used to crack down on Kremlin critics.

The State Duma, or lower house of parliament, said in a statement that the measures will make it possible “to defend the interests and to ensure the security of the Russian Federation”. 

In recent years the label, which is reminiscent of the “enemies of the people” of the Soviet era, has been used extensively against opponents, journalists and human rights activists accused of conducting foreign-funded political activities.

According to the new legislation, anyone “under foreign influence” or receiving support from abroad — not just foreign money — can now be declared a “foreign agent” in Russia.

Such individuals will be prohibited from teaching in public schools and organising public events, among other activities.

The legislation is expected to enter into force on December 1, the Duma said.

Those branded “foreign agents” must disclose sources of funding, undergo audits and accompany all their texts, videos and social media posts with a caption.

The new measures came amid an unprecedented crackdown on dissenting voices in Russia, with most opposition activists either in jail or out of the country. 

Moscow has stepped up efforts to stamp out dissent since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

bur/jm

© Agence France-Presse