The Russian government has submitted to the parliament a draft law introducing criminal responsibility for financing extremism, as well as confiscating the property obtained in the course of perpetrating extremist actions.
An explanatory note for the bill was posted on the State Duma web-site on Friday. It reads that extremist activity is one of the most dangerous threats to the constitutional order and state security, and therefore the law must be amended so that fighting such crimes becomes more effective.
The note also reads that the number of extremist crimes in Russia is growing year by year, and the analysis of the law enforcers’ measures to counter such crimes has shown that the current legislation on the matter is flawed.
The new draft law recommends that a person providing financial means for extremist activities or aiding in their collection could be punished with a fine ranging from 300 000 to 500 000 rubles ($10000 – 18000), have part or all of their income garnished for anywhere from one to five years, be banned from holding certain official positions for up to three years, or even serve up to three years in prison.
In May 2011, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered that those who had been convicted of extremist crimes be banned from state service.
The punishment is even harsher if an individual commits a crime while acting within an official capacity within a state structure – the prison term in this case can be up to six years.
However, the draft stipulates that the person can be freed of criminal responsibility if he promptly reports about the extremist activities to the authorities.
The new bill also touches upon changing the current situation in the sphere of the mass media and communications – it reads that the state bodies are currently failing to react duly to the extremist materials that are being published on the internet, which gives the persons involved in such activities a sense of impunity.
Therefore, the new bill suggests amending the criminal code with several articles that would introduce criminal responsibility for extremist crimes which are carried out with the use of public telecommunication networks, including the internet.
Moreover, the bill introduces amendments to the Federal law on fighting extremism, which would change some organizational principles of the anti-extremist bodies.
The rise of extremist crimes in Russia worries the authorities, even though the number of such crimes is relatively small if compared to the general criminal statistics. The Interior Ministry’s Department on Countering Extremism grew out of the Department for Fighting Organized Crime in 2008, and now the department reports that its officers solved 430 extremist crimes in 2008, 484 in 2009, and 591 in the first ten months of 2010.
However, critics have said that the police classified petty offences like graffiti and entries on private blogs as being extremist, thus distorting the actual picture.