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23 May, 2018 10:15

Russian business leaders call for softening of bill punishing Western sanctions compliance

Russian business leaders call for softening of bill punishing Western sanctions compliance

Business leaders are seeking to soften the recently-drafted bill introducing punishment for observing anti-Russian restrictions in Russia. A proposal for replacing criminal responsibility with civil culpability was put forward.

Representatives of major Russian business associations and federal lawmakers met the press after participating in a conference Wednesday. They want the current draft, which allows for criminal responsibility and prison terms for observing foreign restrictions and helping to enforce them, replaced with a bill that contains only civil responsibility and corresponding punishments.

The head of the lobbyist group ‘Support of Russia,’ Aleksandr Kalinin, told the RBC news site: “We think that there must be responsibility for compliance with foreign sanctions on Russian territory, but we also think that it will be wrong to shoot ourselves in the foot.” He said it would be appropriate to punish those who observe foreign restrictions in Russia with fines, bans on taking certain public posts and possibly a ban on business deal between state corporations and companies belonging to violators.

Earlier the bill was criticized by the presidential council for human rights and the center for protection of mass media. The head of the latter, Galina Arapova, noted in press comments that the terms and definitions used in the current draft were so broad that they allowed for prosecution of reporters whose articles were used by foreign officials in preparing the anti-Russian restrictions.

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs said that the bill was putting Russian businessmen between a rock and a hard place – violating the Western sanctions law would lead to prosecution abroad and compliance with them would cause prosecution in Russia.

The bill on punishment for those who observe foreign sanctions imposed on Russia, its citizens and companies was passed by the State Duma in the first reading on May 15. The second hearing was initially scheduled for May 18, but the numerous objections forced the lawmakers to have the date of the second hearing postponed.

On Tuesday this week the State Duma approved in the third and final reading the bill on reciprocal actions triggered by the latest sanctions introduced by the United States and its allies.

This document allows the Russian president to impose a wide variety of restrictions, from entry bans on certain citizens to trade embargoes on whole groups of goods on the basis of proposals made by the government. The law also reads that the restrictive measures should not apply to vital goods for which there is no comparable alternative produced in Russia and that import bans should not affect goods that Russian citizens bring from foreign countries for personal use.