LIVE UPDATES: Amazon Cloud Service, which hosts a large number of sites in Russia, has been blocked by Roskomnadzor, the state censor.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
Recent Analysis and Translations:
– NATO Got Nothing From Conceding To Russia In the Past, Why Should It Cave To The Kremlin Now?
– Who is Hacking the Russian Opposition and State Media Officials — and How?
– Does it Matter if the Russian Opposition Stays United?
– Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Has Invented A Version Of History To Meet His Needs
– Getting The News From Chechnya â The Crackdown On Free Press You May Have Missed
The package of multiple amendments to existing laws on terrorism has been widely discussed in the Russian media as it has gone through various versions. Liberals fear it it will further erode human rights; Meduza, the Russian publication in exile in Latvia, said the legislation was “the harshest in many years,” restricting rights that had previously been guaranteed by the Constitution.
Other penalties have been adding including increase of the terms of maximum imprisonment for events, or introduce a lower threshold for imprisonment. For example, a person sentenced for “incitement of hatred and enmity” in which force was not used can now face a maximum of 4 years of prison. Some MPs proposed extending this to five years, with a minimum of two years.
The amendments to the law on “organization of an extremist association” would provide for imprisonment for 2-6 years for participation in such an organization and 6-10 years for organizing it; a further penalty for “organization of extremist activity” has been increased to 6-10 years as well. The penalty for “financing extremist activity” has increased from up to 3 years to from 3-8 years.
Russia has been plagued by numerous terrorist attacks in recent years, usually in the North Caucasus. Every year, law-enforcers report that they have shot dead several hundred terrorist suspects during raids or at checkpoints. The figure for those killed has been lower in the last year as increasing numbers of Islamist fighters have gone to Syria to join ISIS. Russian officials say that as many as 2,000 who fought with ISIS have been killed on the battlefield and that they are preventing any survivors from returning. Yet nearly ever month in Dagestan, Ingushetia, or Chechnya, there is an incident in which a militant claiming allegiance to ISIS is involved in shooting people or bombing targets.
Russia is now extending the definition of “terrorism” very broadly to include some forms of opposition activity, and “separatism,” i.e. such as the movement in Siberia demanding “federalization” to obtain more autonomy over resource usage. The fact that Alexey Navalny, an opposition leader known for his exposes of corrupt officials, and Dmitry Nekrasov, a member of the Yabloko Party and the opposition Coordinating Committee forced to flee Russia, were questioned about “terrorism” by officials or warned of investigations on “terrorism” indicate how overbroad the official definition has become.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
“The claims here are against Amazon which is placing sites on its servers that violate the laws of various countries and does not block access to such content at the request of local authorities.”
Amazon itself closed its cloud service in Russian-occupied Crimea last February after President Barack Obama signed an embargo on doing business with companies in Crimea.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick