Senators draft bill introducing prison sentences for insulting Russian national anthem

© Grigoriy Sisoev
A group of upper house lawmakers have drafted a motion introducing criminal responsibility for insulting Russian state symbols, including the national anthem, and ordering punishment of up to one year in prison for such actions.

The bill provides that those who defile Russian national symbols, such as the flag, the emblem and the anthem, must face punishment of either a travel ban of up to one year or corrective labor for the same period of time, or even up to one year in prison.

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Defiling the national anthem is described as “premeditated distortion of its music or lyrics during public performances or in internet posts and mass media publications.”

Currently the Russian Criminal Code contains an article ordering the same punishment for insulting the national emblem and the national flag. The latest bill expands it to the national anthem, which is presently protected only by the administrative code.

In explanations attached with the bill, its sponsors noted that while the Russian Constitution lists the flag, emblem and anthem as equal national symbols, the criminal and administrative law treat them differently and this needs to be corrected.

Also, the existing Russian law allows citizens, companies and official groups to use all state symbols if they can prove their use is not “desecration.” Violation of the official rules on the use of state symbols is listed as an administrative offense and is punishable with fines of between 3,000 and 150,000 rubles. ($47-$2,340 at current rates).

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The bill is not the first attempt to legally protect the Russian anthem. In November 2013, MP Oleg Mikheyev of the Fair Russia party drafted his own bill introducing criminal responsibility for insulting it. The motion was cleared by the Supreme Court in June 2015, but has not yet been passed into law.

In May 2015, MP Vadim Solovyov of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation proposed a bill introducing liability for using the national anthem as a ringtone for advertising purposes. “The anthem is one of the symbols of our state and of patriotism. The essence of it is that it represents our country and participates in the patriotic upbringing of the people. I think it’s not right to sell anthems,” Solovyov told reporters as he presented the motion.