The Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, on Wednesday approved a draft law toughening the penalties for disseminating state secrets and introducing criminal liability for illegally obtaining secret information.
The bill prompted widespread public controversy during its passage through the Duma, with some fearing that its opaque phrasing left it open to misuse.
The law amends Russian law on obtaining information classed as a state secret through underhand means such as bribery, deception, blackmail, or threats of physical violence. Once law, the crime would result in a fine of between 200,000 rubles (about $ 6,000) and 500,000 rubles (about $16,000) or a prison term of up to four years.
Groups found guilty of this charge could face from three to eight years behind bars, if their activities involved the use of force or special technology, or if these activities had particularly grave consequences.
The law also broadens the scope of articles relating to treason so that they cover international organizations, which, Deputy Director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) Yury Gorbunov believes to be used as a cover for espionage activity, in part due to this loophole.
The terms of the law have also been expanded to cover those people who come across secret information in the course of their studies, as well as those who do so in the workplace.
The bill will become law on being signed by the President.