Russian officials last year regularly proposed punishments for anyone who had left the country and continued to criticize the regime from abroad. Last week, however, this question was raised once again — and more seriously. The authorities made it clear they are working on something concrete that can be used against those they call “traitors” and “villains.”
- One of the most prominent advocates of punishing those who criticize Russia from abroad is the speaker of the Russian parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin. He suggested confiscating real estate belonging to these people and intends to use existing legislation that punishes inciting extremism, rehabilitating Nazism and “discrediting” Russia’s military. The main difference between this proposal and its predecessors is that it was supported by the influential Andrei Klishas, head of the Constitutional Committee in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament.
- These legislative changes will go before the Human Rights Council, a presidential advisory body whose main task is to develop civil institutions and monitor the observance of human rights. Council member Kirill Kabanov pointed out that attempts to introduce punishments for “traitors” have no legal force, because that terminology has no legal basis. However, Kabanov supported the initiative to “punish treachery in any form.”
- Russian lawmakers are already working on measures to punish those who leave Russian and criticize the regime. Oleg Morozov, a deputy of the ruling United Russia party, said that these sorts of people “can and should be stripped of their rights — political, social and property.” Among other things, Morozov suggested depriving them of their right to take part in elections.
- Since Russia invaded Ukraine, many Russian public figures have spoken out against the war and left the country. In May, 2022, for example renowned musician Boris Grebenshchikov described supporters of the war as “mentally ill fascists.”
Why the world should care
It appears the Russian authorities have found a new way to punish prominent opponents of the war. Politicians have proposed confiscating their property, withdrawing state awards and possibly depriving them of citizenship. It is possible that if any of these measures become law, “ordinary” Russians who criticize the Kremlin from abroad may also be affected.