Federation Council approves bill on state secrets

The Russian Federation Council has approved a government-sponsored bill on criminal prosecution for unlawful acquisition of information constituting state secrets.

The bill amends the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code. The amendments stipulate that an individual acquiring information constituting a state secret through theft, deception, blackmail, coercion, the threat of violence or another unlawful way could be fined 200,000 to 500,000 rubles, or an amount of their income for a period ranging from one to three years, or imprisoned for up to four years.

The same activity committed by a group of people, or with the use of violence, or if this entails serious consequences, or committed using equipment designed to clandestinely obtain information, or transfer of such information outside the country carries imprisonment of three to eight years.

Leading Russian human rights activists had asked Federation Council Chair Valentina Matviyenko not to approve the bill in an earlier statement.

"This most important issue did not pass through public debate procedures, first of all, at the Russian Public Chamber," said the statement signed by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Valery Borshchyov, Svetlana Gannushkina, Lev Ponomaryov and Lilia Shibanova.

The statement obtained by Interfax said that a lot of prominent lawyers, the Presidential Human Rights Council and Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin came to the conclusion that the bill "contains insurmountable flaws and runs counter to the principles of legal certainty of individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Russian Constitution, and our country's commitments to ensuring free international cooperation."

Civic activists called for setting up a conciliatory commission with the State Duma and, in making a final decision, taking into consideration the view of the Public Chamber, the Presidential Human Rights Council and the human rights commissioner.

Presidential Human Rights Council head Mikhail Fedotov had sent a request to Matviyenko on Oct. 25 that the bill be turned down.

The Human Rights Council said on Oct. 4 that the amendments concerning state secrets violated the Constitution.

Federal Security Service (FSB) Deputy Director Yury Gorbunov had said earlier that the need for amending the Russian Criminal Code provisions dealing with state secrets could be explained, in particular, by changing tactics of foreign intelligence services, which are actively using international organizations in their work.

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