Last September, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote a policy paper bashing Russia’s “negative democratic tendencies,” and promising more democracy. After he signed a new law on July 29 that broadens the powers of the Federal Security Service (FSB), opposition leaders say Medvedev isn’t keeping his promise.
The new law allows FSB officers to “warn” people who are considering committing a crime, and imposes 15-day jail terms on those who “obstruct an FSB officer’s duties.” The government says the new measure is a tool to fight Islamic terrorism. Critics say it is reminiscent of a 1972 edict that the KGB cited when oppressing dissidents, and argue that the vague wording—agents may “warn officially an individual about the inadmissibility of actions that create the conditions for the commission of crimes”—will be used to further suppress opposition.
Despite the uproar, most Russians haven’t even noticed. A poll conducted the week the law passed found two-thirds of Russians had not heard of the bill—something attributed to the fact that a large segment of the population depends on pro-government state television for their news.
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