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Russian Duma Approves Anti-Sanctions Bill In First Reading

The Russian parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, has approved in its first reading a bill which provides for the jailing for up to four years of Russians who adhere to economic sanctions imposed by the United States.

The lawmakers approved the bill unanimously on May 15.

The bill, which needs two more votes in the Duma and one in the upper house, the Federation Council, before being signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, is seen as an effort to respond to U.S.-imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on Russian officials, tycoons, and companies associated with Putin.

Those April 6 sanctions, the latest in a series imposed by the United States, European Union, and other countries since Russia seized Crimea and has been backing armed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014, were meant to punish Moscow for alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other "malign activity around the globe."

The legislation would enable a court to impose a prison term of up to four years on any individual or representative of a legal entity in Russia who refuses to supply services or do business with a Russian citizen due to sanctions.

Offenders could also be fined up to 600,000 rubles ($9,710).

Under the bill, helping foreign governments impose sanctions on Russia by providing advice or information would also be a criminal offense, punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 500,000 rubles ($8,090).

The second vote is scheduled for May 17.

With reporting by Meduza