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Russian Lawmakers Propose Expanded 'Extremism' Law Aimed At Crimea

One of the authors of the bill, Duma deputy Pavel Krasheninnikov, said it would supplement existing laws by indicating that extremism is a violation of Russia’s territorial integrity. (file photo)

MOSCOW -- A group of Russian lawmakers has proposed an expanded extremism bill aimed at further quelling opposition activists and politicians as well as anyone questioning Moscow’s forcible seizure of the Crimean Peninsula.

One of the authors of the bill, chairman of the parliamentary committee of state-building and legislation in the State Duma, Pavel Krasheninnikov, said on July 8 that the bill would amend the federal law on measures against extremism, according to which a violation of the Russian Federation's territorial integrity is considered an act of extremism.

Krasheninnikov said that the bill would supplement existing laws by indicating that extremism is a violation of Russia’s territorial integrity, "including the alienation of parts of its territory."

The additional wording is primarily aimed at targeting any discussion or criticism of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Among other things, the bill outlines fines and criminal liability for "public appeals" using the media, the Internet, or any other information channel.

According to Krasheninnikov, the bill would bring the law into line with constitutional amendments that were adopted in Russia last week amid protests by oppositionists and rights defenders.

He said it "will avoid an ambiguous or uncertain interpretation of the integrity of the Russian Federation."

Among other changes, the constitutional amendments allowed President Vladimir Putin to seek two more presidential terms after his current second term in a row expires in 2024.

The head of the committee for constitutional legislation and state-building at the parliament’s upper chamber, Andrei Klishas, who is also the bill's author, said on July 8 that the bill might be approved by the parliament by the end of July.

Russian lawmakers amended the Criminal Code in July 2014, several months after Moscow seized Ukraine's Crimea, toughening punishment for public calls for separatism, namely introducing a punishment of up to five in prison for public calls for separatism via media and the Internet.

That amendment was used by Russian authorities to crack down on dozens of journalists and activists in Crimea for their open stance opposing the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.

The new bill proposes imprisonment of 6 to 10 years, especially for repeated violations of the law.