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New law may allow Russian legislation to persecute individual citizens as ‘foreign agents’

Previously, only organizations could be listed as ‘foreign agents’

The Russian parliament has passed a law effectively allowing for any Russian citizen to be declared a foreign agent.

The law now awaits the signature of the president before coming into force.

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At the same time, a campaign has been launched on the Internet – an open letter to the president asking him not to sign this law. Under the letter there are 60 signatures so far. They are mainly human rights activists, but the letter also contains signatures of famous cultural figures, including musician Andrei Makarevich and writer Viktor Shenderovich.

What is a foreign agent? What is the process through which a citizen may be listed a foreign agent, and why do human rights activists call this law “legally absurd and knowingly unconstitutional”, lawyer Max Olenichev told Afisha Daily.

What is a foreign agent?

A foreign agent is one who acts on the territory of Russia in the interests of another state.

Previously, only legal entities (companies, media) could be declared a foreign agent. With the adoption of the new law, any citizen can be listed a foreign agent.

How are people declared foreign agents?

A foreign agent may be declared to be:

Anyone who receives money or property from foreign sources or from Russian organizations using foreign financing.

Anyone who is involved in the creation of information materials for media that have been assigned the status of a foreign agent. For example, gives an interview.

Anyone who receives any payment from abroad.  Some lawyers suggest that this definition includes the incomes of citizens of the Russian Federation from the sale of goods on online exchanges or the rental of apartments to foreigners.

The status of a foreign agent is assigned by the Ministry of Justice without a court order.

What threats do ‘foreign agents’ face?

Individuals who end up on the register of foreign agents are required to: establish a legal entity, notify the authorities about this, then distribute any information (interviews, posts on social networks) with special markings.

Organizations that refuse to do so face a fine of up to five thousand dollars.

For citizens, it is not clear what penalties they face, but if the law is passed, the size of a fine will also be worked out.

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