Russia: Law broadening definition of state treason adopted


Parliament voted on 23 October to broaden the definition of state treason.  The amendments to the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code introduced by the Cabinet of Ministers back in 2008 broaden the definitions in the interests of the law enforcement agencies. The amendments are introduced at the initiative of the FSB, with explanation given by SBU official Yury Gorbunov. This is just over a month since the bill was passed in its first reading.  

As reported, the amendments include a new article (283.1) of the Criminal Code prohibiting not only divulging, but also « receiving information constituting a state secret via seizure, fraud, bribery, blackmail, compulsion or the threat of violence ».

This would carry a punishment of up to four years imprisonment or a fine of from 200 to 500 thousand rubles. If the act was committed by a group of people, or with the use of special devices for illicitly receiving information, it could carry a sentence of eight years imprisonment.

Human rights workers point to the danger of imposing criminal liability for receiving information related to state secrets. Igor Kalyapin, Head of the Committee against Torture notes that a person who has not been given access to a state secret may not know that it is such.  He adds that human rights workers in the North Caucuses keep coming up against problems with the interpretation of state secrets. He recounts that he was once accused of divulging state secrets over several important photos taken at a base of the Chechen OMON [riot police].  He only later learned that the territory was classified as secret.  Such situations are not isolated cases in the area.

The draft law also allows for criminal prosecution for passing on information constituting a state secret “causing harm to the security of the Russian Federation” not only to a foreign government, but also to international NGOs.  According to the draft law, a person could hear such information at work or in their studies. If the law is passed, then what is defined as treason will include financial, material and technical, consultative or other assistance to a foreign government or organization “whose activities are directed against Russia”.

The FSB apparently objects to the fact that at present the defence can argue that “hostile” activity has not been proven. They therefore propose removing this wording and declaring any activity which helps foreign governments and organizations whose actions they regard as causing damage to Russia to be a crime.

The bill has only to go through the upper house which is not expected to oppose it, and then be signed by Vladimir Putin who is understood to support it.

From material here and a report at

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