The legislation strengthens police surveillance powers and broadens the definition of extremism.
Kremlin critics say the bill, which also introduces some media restrictions, will stifle freedom ahead of parliamentary elections in December and a presidential vote in March 2008. The bill requires journalists writing about officially listed extremist organizations to note that fact in their reporting.
The bill must still receive upper house approval before going to President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign it into law.
(with material fromAP)
Kremlin Plays The Racism Card
Some observers believe the Kremlin is using the rising tide of xenophobia as a weapon against its political rivals. If so, it's not a new strategy. more
The Political Side Of Racism
Analysts have suggested that the wave of skinhead and neo-Nazi violence in Russia is politically useful as elections and a presidential succession get nearer. more
Moscow Takes On Extremism
COMBATTING THE HATRED: RFE/RL's Russian Service on August 21 spoke with Kamilzhan Kalandarov, a member of the Public Chamber and a leader of the NGO Our Russia. (Read the complete interview in Russian). Kalandarov spoke about efforts the authorities are making to combat the wave of hate crimes sweeping Russia.
Kalandarov: Xenophobia today threatens the national interests of Russia. But I agree that the authorities are making good progress in this matter. First, the order on withdrawing Russian forces from Chechnya was recently signed. That is a big plus because the source of extremism, the sources of Caucasus-phobia are partly in Chechnya. Islamophobia grew dramatically after the first Chechen war. Next, the Public Chamber was created. We have a subcommission on nationalities issues and a subcommission that drafts projects related to xenophobia. This work is ongoing, which is why I think the authorities are really interested in making sure this problem does not go any further.
We should also mention the courts. I think that in many cases judges themselves hold [xenophobic] views. Second, we have not created normal conditions for protecting witnesses. People are not physically protected from various types of influence. Judges are afraid and witnesses are afraid. Because they have to keep living in that city. This defenselessness leads to cases not being pursued and to not-guilty verdicts being issued.
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