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5 Jan, 2024 19:09

Russia could make ‘Russophobia’ illegal – media

Amendments to the criminal code would let Moscow go after foreign officials and governments
Russia could make ‘Russophobia’ illegal – media

Foreign officials discriminating against Russians could face prosecution under a bill currently making its way through the parliament in Moscow, the outlet RBK reported on Friday, citing insider sources.

Irina Yarovaya, an MP from the ruling ‘United Russia’ party and a long-time critic of “Russophobia,” is behind the proposal that would amend the Russian Criminal Code with penalties for the practice. 

The bill, which RBK has seen, would introduce liabilities for “discriminatory action” against ethnic Russians or Russian nationals, as well as “public calls to commit discriminatory actions.” It would also apply to members of foreign governments acting in their official capacity and allow individuals to be tried in absentia “in exceptional cases.”

In the explanatory note to the bill, Yarovaya said it was needed to ensure the protection of military cemeteries, monuments, and other memorials to those who died in the defense of Russia. 

Yarovaya has campaigned to criminalize Russophobia for over a year now, describing it as a “misanthropic ideology” designed as a weapon against Russia, its citizens, and the entire “Russian world.” She has cited denial of employment and medical care, cancellation of theatrical productions and concerts, and restrictions on the use of the Russian language as some examples of Russophobia in action.

The Baltic states and several countries in Central and Eastern Europe – notably Poland, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria – have recently moved to demolish or dismantle monuments to the Soviet war dead from the Second World War, while some have even criminalized celebrations of victory over Nazi Germany. 

Meanwhile, some US allies have used the Ukraine conflict as the pretext for a campaign to either “cancel” the Russian language, culture, and heritage throughout the West or have it rebranded as “Ukrainian.”

Yarovaya’s proposal appears to have the support of the Kremlin, according to RBK. During his December 14 press conference, President Vladimir Putin called Russophobia one of the “attack vectors” against Russia and said it was necessary to “nip in the bud” any attempts to destabilize Russian society.

Several questions remain to be resolved before Yarovaya’s bill can be adopted, however. The bill does not specify the penalties, such as fines and terms of imprisonment, that would apply, for example. 

The bill would also need to provide examples of specific actions that would be criminalized, rather than just “ways of thinking or someone’s feelings towards any ethnic group,” attorney Alexey Dobrynin of the Pen & Paper Bar Association told RBK. 

Dobrynin described the proposed law as a deterrent to future Russophobic actions and a demonstration of Russia’s determination to counter them.

Russian laws already ban discrimination on the basis of citizenship, ethnicity, or nation, Anton Bibarov-Gosudarev, a member of the Russian Lawyers Association, told the outlet. The “novelty” of Yarovaya’s proposal is that it would specifically target foreign officials, Bibarov-Gosudarev added, acknowledging that bringing them to justice in Russia “seems difficult to implement.”