Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill into law imposing penalties for disclosing the personal data of security officials or their relatives, a move that could further hamstring efforts to expose corruption or hold Russian officials accountable.
Punishments for offenders include jail sentences, house arrest, forced labor, and fines of up to 18 months' salary.
The law could discourage the kind of exposés that jailed anti-corruption lawyer Aleksei Navalny and other Kremlin critics have published, highlighting dodgy properties linked to senior officials like Putin and ex-President Dmitry Medvedev.
One such investigation, Putin's Palace, has attracted more than 100 million YouTube views and further cemented the reputation of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Campaign (FBK) as a detailed chronicler of suspect deals.
The FBK was declared an "extremist" group by a Moscow city court on June 9, preventing people associated with it and his collection of regional political offices from seeking public office.
The ruling marked another watershed moment for Russia’s opposition.
A campaign by authorities to dismantle opposition networks has accelerated ahead of elections to the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, in September.
The new law signed this week by Putin casts a wide net, prohibiting the illegal collection, transfer, distribution, or access to the personal data of judges, prosecutors, investigators, Interior Ministry employees, or staff of numerous law enforcement agencies in connection with their professional duties.
It also covers such data relating to their families.
The State Duma previously passed a bill banning the disclosure of information about operational investigative activities, covering data on law enforcement officers and military personnel "regardless of the presence of an immediate threat to their safety."
The Russian federal agency tasked with maintaining real-estate records, Rosreestr, has already implemented changes to prevent access to information on assets linked to prominent officials, including relatives of former Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika.