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10 Feb, 2024 12:28

Russia’s top MP calls for tightening ‘foreign agents’ legislation

Voters are “outraged” that those who smear the country can still earn ad revenue from domestic companies, Vyacheslav Volodin has said
Russia’s top MP calls for tightening ‘foreign agents’ legislation

Russia could soon ban domestic companies from placing ads on resources controlled by individuals who have been labeled as ‘foreign agents,’ according to a Telegram post on Saturday by State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin .   

Volodin noted that he has been receiving questions from “outraged” constituents about how current advertising legislation applies to ‘foreign agents.’ “Bloggers who act in the interests of unfriendly states and drag our country through the mud are still making money off our citizens and domestic businesses,” he wrote, calling the situation “unacceptable.”  

To address the matter, Volodin continued, the Duma is discussing a proposal that would prohibit citizens and domestic companies, regardless of ownership structure, from placing ads on the websites, social media pages, or other internet platforms of foreign agents.  

Lawmakers, he added, believe it is necessary “to deprive foreign agents of all sources of income in our country.” Those who violate the measure will face “severe penalties,” the Duma chair said, without giving further details.  

Vasily Piskaryov, the head of the State Duma Committee on foreign interference in domestic affairs, said that the bill had already been drafted and was awaiting approval. He supported the initiative, saying that many foreign agents were “sitting pretty” while “living off enemy handouts while earning off our citizens.”  

According to Russia’s Consolidated Register of Internet Advertisements, Russian companies spent 133 million rubles ($1.5 million) to place ads on resources controlled by foreign agents in 2023. The sum is only a tiny fraction of the entire Russian advertising market, which is estimated at 563 billion rubles ($5.9 billion).  

Russia’s foreign agent law, which was first adopted in 2012, bears strong similarities to the 1938 US Foreign Agents Registration Act. A foreign agent is defined as a person or entity engaged in financial or political activities in the interests of a foreign state. Those designated as such under this law are not banned from operating but are required to disclose their status and are subject to additional scrutiny.  

In 2022, Russia also passed a law prohibiting foreign agents from holding state office, taking part in electoral campaigns, engaging in educational activities, and receiving state funds.   

Those who fail to comply with the foreign agent legislation could face fines of up to 5 million rubles ($55,000) and up to six years in prison.