RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
Russian lawmakers are examining possible new legislation envisioning the deportation of foreigners who engage in "undesirable" behavior deemed to be interference in the country's internal affairs.
Andrei Klimov, a senior member of Russia's upper house of parliament, confirmed to Russian media outlets on September 4 that discussions had begun about such a law.
"Our foreign partners are systematically meddling in our affairs," the Kremlin-loyal Izvestia newspaper quoted Klimov, a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party, as saying.
Citing unidentified sources close to parliament, Izvestia reported that the legislation would be a draft amendment to a 2015 law that gives Russian authorities the power to declare international organizations "undesirable" and shutter them if they are deemed to be a national-security threat.
Rights watchdogs call the 2015 law part of a broader Kremlin clampdown on civil society since Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term as president in May 2012 following mass street protests he accused Western states of fomenting.
In addition to possible expulsions of foreigners, the new bill could include criminal penalties for Russian citizens found to have engaged in "undesirable" activities that threaten national security, Izvestia reported.
Russia's federal immigration law already allows foreign nationals to be barred in the interest of "national security" or if they are considered "undesirable."
Russia has previously slapped such bans on a range of foreigners going back more than a decade, including businesspeople, journalists, and human rights activists.
But the new amendment to the "undesirables" law could introduce punishments for Russian citizens and legal entities, Izvestia reported, citing a source close to parliament.
Violations of the law could be classified as misdemeanors or felony crimes, the newspaper reported.
Klimov confirmed to Izvestia, the state-run TASS news agency, and the business daily RBK that discussion of the possible legislation had begun among lawmakers and experts.
Klimov told TASS, however, that it "must be worked out seriously, including from a legal standpoint."
'Defending State Sovereignty'
Klimov is overseeing the initiative as the head of a Federation Council commission created in June aimed at "defending state sovereignty and preventing interference" in Russia's "internal affairs."
The commission was formed amid ongoing U.S. investigations into what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was a Russian hacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing last year’s presidential election. Moscow denies any involvement.
Russia has repeatedly accused the United States and other Western governments of seeking to stoke political unrest in the country by funding nongovernmental organizations, including election monitors and human-rights groups often critical of authorities.
U.S. and European officials have repeatedly rejected these allegations.
"In part we want to track the movement of money that is being sent from Washington to fund the activities of various organizations," Klimov said.
As an example of individuals engaged in "undesirable" activities, Klimov cited foreign academics who give "instructions" for political revolution in lectures at Russian universities, RBK reported. The report did not include a specific example of such a lecture.
News of the possible legislation comes ahead of a March 2018 presidential election that is expected to give Putin a new six-year term.
A 2013 law already imposes additional obligations on nongovernmental organizations in Russia that receive funding from abroad and are seen to engage in political activities, singling them out as "foreign agents."
Recently, legislators have signaled a desire to also extend that designation to NGOs that receive funding from Russians with foreign sources of income.
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