Staunton, March 17 – Russians have been subject to increasingly restrictive laws for some time, but now, according to Komsomolskaya pravda journalist Dina Karpitskaya, “every second law coming from the depths of the State Duma” imposes more restrictions, “transforming Russia into a land of bans.”
In a new article, she offers examples of some of the most extreme and surprising prohibitions that have been adopted in Russia in recent years,” prohibitions which limit the rights and freedoms of residents of the Russian Federation in increasingly hyperbolic ways (kp.ru/daily/27253.3/4382438/).
In the most recent weeks, the Duma has voted to impose criminal liability on anyone found to have slandered veterans, as well as prohibiting foul language on the Internet, setting penalties for blocking streets during demonstrations and collecting firewood without permission. The Duma has never before been so interested in imposing bans.
“If you search online with the phrase, ‘deputies have introduced a ban on …” you will find a very large number of curiosities.” But few ordinary people take the time to do so. And still fewer, Karpitskaya says, know all the things that are now being banned, thus reducing the impact of the bans but increasing contempt for laws as such.
One sphere to which the Duma has given particular attention as far as bans are concerned is the natural world. This January, its deputies adopted on first reading a law that would ban any motor vehicle from coming within 200 meters to a reservoir unless there are paved roads. One can only hope this won’t pass second and third readings.
Other deputies have plans to ban the sale of animals in markets and stores and to fine heavily anyone who tries to do so. Those who like to fish are also being limited by bans. No one can maintain control of a privately stocked lake. No one can take away fish on a list of rare fish. And no one can use electronic means to find fish anymore.
But the impact of bans on people is worse. Someone who wants to tell a friend that her husband has betrayed her could face large fines and even imprisonment for slander unless the charge is proven in court. And the definition of slander, first put in the criminal code in 2012, is becoming ever more elastic, especially when “in the Internet” is added in amendments.
By now, all Russians know that Aleksey Navalny was fined 850,000 rubles (12,000 US dollars) for slandering a veteran. But since his trial, the Duma has approved legislation that would allow courts to send him to prison for five years and impose fines of up to five million rubles (70,000 US dollars).
The Duma has also introduced new requirements on Internet services and provides and imposed limits on journalists seeking to cover protests. And it has given courts the right to declare a protest by a single individual as “a meeting” and thus subject to all punishments for occurring without official permission.
The Duma has approved on first reading a measure that would allow the courts to impose fines on anyone using the Internet to promote candidates or causes in elections. And when it can’t think of anything new to do, the Duma always returns to the ever popular defense of the Soviet side in World War II.
In February, the Duma approved on first reading a prohibition on “the public display of images of persons found guilty by the Nuremberg tribunal.” The author of this bill was Yelean Yampolskaya who discovered that while existing laws ban Nazi propaganda, they don’t ban pictures of leading Nazis on t-shirts. She says she only wants to correct that shortcoming.