Russian lawmakers approve bill to seize property from army critics

The State Duma, parliament’s lower house, approved the bill by a 395-3 vote in the first of three required readings.

A sign promoting military service under contract with Russia’s military is seen in the settlement of Kharp in the Yamal-Nenets region of Russia [Reuters]Published On 24 Jan 202424 Jan 2024

Russian lawmakers have approved a bill to confiscate properties, money and valuables of anyone convicted of spreading criticism of the Russian army.

The State Duma, parliament’s lower house, passed the bill with 395 votes for and three against on Wednesday in the first of three required readings.

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Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who co-authored the bill, told lawmakers that the measure was “not enough” to stop the army’s critics.

“They live comfortably, renting out property, continuing to receive royalties at the expense of Russian citizens. They use these funds to support the Nazi regime,” Volodin said.

“The decision adopted should stop those who commit crimes against the security of our country, who consider it possible to insult our citizens, soldiers and officers, and who support the Nazis,” he added.

Since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Moscow has banned any criticism of its military operation and detained thousands of Russians opposing the war.

The current charge of spreading “false information” about the army carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

Information about the war in Ukraine that does not come from an official source may be deemed “false”.

Several writers and activists have received long sentences due to the law, and some have been added to a list of “extremists and terrorists”.

But the latest measure aims to further penalise those who speak up about the army and could affect Russians who have fled the country.

Russian officials had for months been calling for stricter laws on those who speak critically about the situation in Ukraine, denouncing them as “traitors”.

“We are showing goodwill that we are doing this only two years in,” said Andrey Lugovoy, a deputy from Russia’s right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia.

Lawmakers also decided to adopt a resolution condemning France for having “mercenaries” in Ukraine after days of tension between the two countries.

Last week, Moscow summoned the French ambassador over what it said was Paris’s “growing involvement in the Ukraine conflict”.

However, France has denied the allegation and said it has no mercenaries in the war or “anywhere else” and that the claims were part of a disinformation campaign.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies