“Again and again, life is reminding us of the mechanism of Stalinist terror. From persecution of regime opponents, to the persecution of internal party opposition. From blaming technological catastrophes and social problems on sabotage, to all-encompassing paranoia. From reprisals within the elite, to total terror that paralyzes society and drains its blood.” This is what political and rights activist Lev Ponomarev said after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law this week that broadens the definition of treason.
This new version of the law is intended to protect the country’s external and internal security. Along with more obvious crimes like selling state secrets, one can now be indicted for “providing financial, material-technical, consultative, or other aid to a foreign government, international or foreign organization or its representatives whose actions are directed against the security of the Russian Federation.”
The change has its supporters, but critics look at the word “other” and predict that the law will be used selectively to tighten the screws on opposition to the Kremlin. Two journalists with Moskovsky Komsomolets said it would be used primarily against “journalists, ecologists, scientists [see case of physicist Valentin Danilov], and anyone who takes a critical stance on the situation in the country. Against members of the opposition. We must understand that the law will not be used against real spies.” At a meeting of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, retired judge Tamara Georgievna Morshchakova warned Putin that prosecutors won’t be obligated to prove that national security was harmed, since the law defines “treason” as any provision of help to an actor that could harm national security. They wouldn’t even have to prove that there could have been negative consequences for security, she said. The “opinion of law-enforcement bodies will be sufficient… .”