Friday, June 11, 2010

Russia Expanding Federal Security Service (FSB) Powers

Via -

Russia's parliament on Friday voted to boost the powers of the successor to the Soviet KGB, allowing it to summon people it believes are about to commit a crime and threaten jail for those who disobey its orders.

Rights groups said the proposed regulations could be used by the FSB security service to detain opposition activists and independent journalists and undermine President Dmitry Medvedev's promises to foster civil rights.

"It's a step toward a police state," said Vladimir Ulas, a member of the opposition Communist Party. "It is effectively a ban on any real opposition activity."

The bill, which would allow the FSB to issue a legally binding summons to anyone whose actions it considers as "causing or creating the conditions for committing a crime," was passed in the first of three required readings in the State Duma.

All 313 members of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party present voted in favour, while the Communists joined the smaller pro-Kremlin parties, Fair Russia and the Liberal Democrats, in opposing the bill.

Gennady Gudkov, whose Fair Russia party rarely opposes government-backed legislation, described it as "a left-over order from the Soviet Union."

He said he would lobby for changes to the bill before the second reading. It also needs approval by the United Russia-dominated upper house and Medvedev's signature.

The bill would set a penalty of up to 15 days in prison for anyone who "disobeys a legitimate order" from an FSB agent. Rights groups say the changes taken together could allow the FSB to detain anyone it likes without any judicial process.

"A warning sounds benign, but under Russian law it can have serious consequences," said Allison Gill, Moscow director of New York-based Human Rights Watch. "It is a significant increase in power for the FSB."

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