Russia has never been known for its willingness to cooperate with other nations, but now, President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that completely redefined the Russian definition of treason, and some are concerned that Russia’s new treason law could be used in ways that the public do not want, namely, to stifle cries of dissent against the administration.
Previously, Russians who were working for foreign intelligence agencies could be convicted of treason, but not any citizen of Russia who gives up state secrets to a foreign organization can be prosecuted. In fact, no secrets have to be divulged at all. Just having them is enough for prison time. Putin’s administration has began to look less like a benevolent government that is looking out for its people and more and more like a paranoid in a mental hospital, sure that everyone is out to get him.
Citizens who consult with a foreign organization or provide “other assistance” that is “directed against Russia’s security” are at risk as well and while the punishment limit is twenty years in prison, Russians can be put in prison for four years just for obtaining secrets, and double that if they used surveillance equipment to help obtain those secrets.
While it makes sense for Russia to want to protect themselves from having state secrets shared with foreign bodies, human rights organizations and opponents say that’s not the goal of this law. They think that this law is intended to frighten Russians into ending ties with Western organizations, even if they aren’t part of a government organization.
However, the language of Russia’s new treason law leaves much to be desired, because as it stands currently, Russian citizens could easily be tried and convicted for what might otherwise be innocent research, particularly academics. But if the point of the law is to give Putin tools to throw anyone he chooses into prison, if they refuse to end relationships with Western organizations, then Russian citizens have a right to be concerned.
Gabriel Legend covers current events for Gather News, and writes horror fiction as well. He is participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month Challenge. You can follow him on Twitter (@GabeLegend).