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Russian Lawmaker Wants Visa Ban For Critical Foreigners

  • Tom Balmforth

Aleksei Zhuravlyov has a history of submitting controversial legislation to the Duma that creates headlines, then fails to pass.

Aleksei Zhuravlyov has a history of submitting controversial legislation to the Duma that creates headlines, then fails to pass.

MOSCOW -- A nationalist lawmaker wants to institute a visa ban on foreigners who are critical of Russia and its leadership.

According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia, Aleksei Zhuravlyov, leader of the nationalist Motherland party, has proposed giving state media watchdog Roskomnadzor sweeping powers to blacklist and ban foreigners from entering Russia if it judges them to have criticized the country in the media or on social networks.

The proposal came in the wake of a minor media scandal in which the pro-Kremlin NTV television station hired a Ukrainian journalist who had in the past criticized Russia's intervention in Ukraine. The journalist, Daniil Grachyov, recanted and apologized on air on March 31.

Nevertheless, Zhuravlyov said the incident demonstrates that Russia needs a mechanism to deport critics -- or bar them from entry in the first place. "So maybe he repented," he said. "But does this change his [earlier] comments?"

Zhuravlyov has drafted proposed legislation that would allow Roskomnadzor to blacklist foreigners at will based on its monitoring of media and social networks. And the language leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

According to Zhuravlyov's vision, Izvestia writes, the proposal says the "utterance or dissemination of any information discrediting the honor and dignity of the country's top officials, the citizens of Russia, or the country as a whole" would be sufficient grounds to get somebody blacklisted.

Zhuravlyov's proposal comes amid an atmosphere of intensifying xenophobia and anti-Westernism, unleashed across the country by the Ukraine conflict. According to recent polls, anti-Western attitudes in Russia have hit a record high. According to the independent Levada Center, those with a negative view of the United States, for example, jumped from 44 percent in January 2014 to 81 percent in January 2015.

Zhuravlyov's Motherland party was founded by nationalist Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in 2003. Zhuravlyov, who was elected its leader in September 2012, has a history of submitting controversial legislation to the Duma.

In 2013 he submitted a bill that would have deprived homosexual parents of custodial rights and one banning access to education for the children of migrants unless they could prove they had paid taxes throughout their stay in Russia.

It's unclear whether Zhuravlyov's latest proposal will fare better.

Over the past year, a series of controversial bills have been submitted to the Duma that made headlines when introduced, but went nowhere. They included bans on ballet slippers and lace underwear, a proposal that Germany pay Russia additional reparations for World War II, and the establishment of a national holiday marking Russian troops entering Paris at the end of the Napoleonic wars.

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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at balmfortht@rferl.org

     

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