Law of the Week: New law enables individuals to be designated as ‘foreign agents.’

Week-ending 1 January 2020

On 30 December 2020 President Putin signed into force a number of laws including legislation that enables the authorities to designate individuals and public entitities as ‘foreign agents’ if they engage in political activities considered to be ‘in the interests of a foreign state.’ Individuals so designated would face a range of reporting requirements and would be required to designate themselves as ‘foreign agents’ in any media. The kinds of political activities that could be grounds for designation if conducted ‘in the interests of a foreign state’ include gathering information about the Russian military, holding rallies and debates, expression of opinion about government policy and engagement in elections as candidate, oberserver or campaigner. Those who fail to register as required as a ‘foreign agent’ or breach reporting requirements would face up to five years’ imprisonment.


RFE/RL, 30 December 2020: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a raft of legislation that human rights watchdogs and opposition politicians have said will undermine democratic processes. The controversial legislation came into force immediately upon being signed into law on December 30 and included an amendment to a law that allows individuals and public entities to be recognized as foreign agents if they are considered to be engaged in political activities “in the interests of a foreign state.” Grounds for being recognized as a “foreign agent” could be the purposeful collection of information about Russia’s military or military activities that could harm Russia’s security; holding rallies or political debates; providing opinions on state policies; actions promoting a certain outcome in an election or referendum; or participation as an electoral observer or in political parties if they are done in the interest of a foreign entity. Entities that have been branded as “foreign agents” are subject to restrictions such as providing financial reports on their activities and identifying themselves as such in publications. Putin signed a separate bill imposing penalties of up to five years in prison to those identified as “foreign agents” who do not register as such or fail to report on their activities.

The Moscow Times, 30 December 2020: President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday has signed a number of bills into law ahead of the New Year holiday, ranging from new restrictions on protests and online information to the return of Soviet-era “sobering-up stations.” Here’s an overview of all the latest legislation: Russia’s federal media watchdog now has the right to block internet platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter if they are found to “discriminate” against Russian media. The law signed by Putin also allows Russia to impose retaliatory sanctions for censorship of Russian media on foreign internet platforms. […] Putin signed new restrictions on public protests allowing Russia’s courts in some cases to recognize queues for a single picket as rallies. The changes also prohibit rallies in front of emergency buildings and impose additional restrictions on journalists covering the protests.  Under the new law, journalists are prohibited from campaigning for or against the goals of a public event, organizing or holding it or organizing the collection of donations and signatures, as well as participating in discussions and decision-making. […] Sharing personal data and information about the work of intelligence officers, law enforcement agencies, the military and judges is now a criminal offense under a law Putin signed Wednesday.  […] Another law Putin signed Wednesday prohibits the use of personal data in the public domain without the owner’s consent and gives citizens the right to ask to take their personal information down.  […] Putin approved amendments to the Criminal Code that would make spreading libel online a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in prison. The same punishment would be applied for those found guilty of defamation “against several persons, including individually undefined.” […] Any politically active, foreign-funded individual or organization working in Russia may now be labeled a “foreign agent” under a law signed by Putin on Wednesday. Foreign-funded individuals who gather information on Russia’s military or military-technical activities can also be labeled as foreign agents. Putin signed a law allowing the privatization of land located within towns and villages inside the economic zones of Russia’s national parks. […] Putin also signed a law that would return sobering-up stations to Russia for the first time since 2012.

RAPSI, 30 December 2020:  Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill envisaging restriction of access to Internet resources censoring Russian media outlets into law. The document has been published on the official website of legal information. According to the new law enforcement measures are to be applied with respect to persons involved in violations of basic human rights and liberties and of the rights and liberties of citizens of the Russian Federation; the violations covered by the law include restrictions on access to information on the grounds of nationality, language, origin, property, and office, or in answer to the introduction of other restrictions infringing on the freedom of citizens of the Russian Federation to seek, receive, impart, produce and disseminate information by any lawful means on the part of Internet resources.

RAPSI, 30 December 2020: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a bill introducing prison sentence as punishment for online defamation into law. The law envisages imprisonment for up to 2 years for folk leasing.  Previously, legislation stipulated fines of up to 1 million rubles (about $14,000 at the current exchange rate) or community service for up to 40 hours for defamation in media or public speech.

RAPSI: President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a bill suspending annual indexation of wages of Russian judges into law. The document is published on the official website of legal information. The law suspends the judge wage indexation until January 1, 2022.

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