Russian Lower House Approves Bill on Recognizing Political Groups as Foreign Agents

The Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) has approved the third reading of the bill regulating the activity of foreign agents developed by Russian parliamentary commissions to avoid foreign interference in Russian affairs, TASS reported.

Non-registered public groups involved in political activity and receiving foreign funding will be considered foreign agents, along with individuals involved in politics in the interest of foreign actors that provide them with funding. The individuals considered foreign agents may also be involved in collecting information in the sphere of Russia’s military or military-technical activity, if such data can be used against Russian security by a foreign source.

Such political groups and individuals will be obligated to register as foreign agents and report their activity to the Russian Ministry of Justice, providing data on the spending of their funds and property received from foreign sources. Individuals considered foreign agents will be unable to work for the federal and municipal government, and they cannot be given access to state secrets.

The forms of political activity that allow the Russian government to brand individuals and groups as foreign agents include: rallies and public debates, spread of opinions on state policy, actions aimed at getting a certain result in elections or during a referendum, election observing and activity within political parties, provided that this activity is carried out in the interest of foreign sources. Charity work, as well as activity in the spheres of research, culture, art, healthcare, social services, social support, sports, environmental protection and so on cannot be considered political.

The list of foreign agents will be available online. The media will be obliged to mark individuals and groups as foreign agents in publications about them. This demand will not apply to publications by Internet users, including bloggers. Besides, individuals and political groups considered foreign agents will have to mark their materials themselves.

This bill takes on the central role within the package of initiatives dedicated to regulating the activity of foreign agents. The corresponding bills from the package developed by Russian MPs and senators contain amendments to electoral legislation, the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation.