State Duma readies bill defending Russian president’s dignity

Russian President Vladimir Putin. © Vladimir Astapkovich
A lower house lawmaker representing the nationalist party LDPR is preparing a bill that, if passed, would make insults against the president a criminal offense punishable with up to six years behind bars.

The initiator of the legislative process, Roman Khudyakov MP, told Izvestia daily that he had understood that a special law was needed to protect the presidential reputation after finding that some videos on YouTube contained direct insults and slander aimed at the Russian leader. He also said that he had decided to model the fresh draft on the 1990 law ‘On the protection of the honor and dignity of the president of the USSR’.

Khudyakov emphasized in his comments that his draft would make punishable the insults targeting not a particular person, but the institution of Russian presidency as such.

READ MORE: Most Russians want Putin to remain president after 2018 – poll

Currently, insults against the Russian president can be qualified as insulting a state official, which is a criminal offense punishable by up to one year of correctional labor (a procedure by which part of the convict’s income over the given period is confiscated by the state).

The Soviet law ordered that people who inflict damages to honor and dignity of the president face punishment of up to three years in prison and if the insults were spread with use of mass media the punishment could be up to six years behind bars.

Among the post-Soviet states, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan already have similar laws. Insulting the leaders of these nations could cost an offender up to three years in prison. Azerbaijani laws order up to two years behind bars for insults to the president.

The deputy head of the State Duma Committee for Criminal Law, Sergey Fabrichnyi of the parliamentary majority United Russia party, said that he saw no obstructions to discussing Khudyakov’s proposal.

According to a recent public opinion poll, President Vladimir Putin’s popularity in Russia is exceptionally high.

Seventy-four percent of Russian citizens say that they are ready to vote for Vladimir Putin at the nearest presidential elections, due at the beginning of 2018. This is the highest rating in four years and an almost two-fold increase from 40 percent in October 2012,” the government-owned research center VTSIOM reported in early March. It added that only 15 percent of responders said they had no plans to support the incumbent president.

READ MORE: Putin’s electoral rating hits 4-year high

In a separate poll conducted by VTSIOM in December last year, 57 percent of Russians wanted to see Putin reelected as president in 2018. A further 11 percent said the incumbent should be replaced by someone he proposes as his successor.

In late June 2015, independent Russian pollster the Levada Center reported that according to its data, the share of Russians who are happy with Putin’s work as president had reached 89 percent. Sixty-four percent think the current policies of the Russian authorities are correct – also the highest in history. The proportion of Russians who expressed dissatisfaction with Putin’s work was 10 percent.