Come to your senses!

The 15 most repressive laws adopted in Russia this year. And it seems that in 2023, the Duma is not planning to stop

Come to your senses!
Photo: The Russian State Duma website

In 2022, the Russian State Duma (lower house) passed 653 laws. This is a record number in the entire history of the Russian parliament. The Russian leadership unleashed a full-scale war against Ukraine, mobilised hundreds of thousands of Russians to it, and forbade them to express their disagreement with what is happening in any way. New “subjects” have emerged in the country, some of which are under the control of Ukraine, and bloody battles are being fought for the rest. The new reality is reflected in the Russian legal field.

As a result of the tightening of criminal legislation in Russia, almost all independent media stopped working, both oppositionists and random people were arrested, many Russians left the country. The authorities hid information about state-owned companies, tightened penalties for “foreign agents” and LGBT representatives, and forced businesses to work overtime for military needs. Novaya Gazeta Europe has prepared a list of legislative initiatives that have had the greatest impact on life in Russia this year.

Decrees on the recognition of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics

Came into force: 25 February

These decrees instructed the Russian Defence Ministry to immediately introduce troops into the Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”, or the “DPR” and “LPR”. Agreements on “friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance” were also signed with the self-proclaimed republics. They were concluded for a period of 10 years, with an automatic extension for five-year periods. The documents allowed Russia, the “DPR” and the “LPR” to provide each other with military assistance after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of this year.

The law on liability for “discrediting” and “fakes” about the Russian army and calls for sanctions

Came into force: 4 March

The adopted document introduced three new offences: public “discrediting” of military operations, the spreading of “fakes” (“knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”) and calls for sanctions against Russia.

“Discrediting” leads to administrative liability in the case of first offence, followed by repeated criminal liability with a penalty of up to five years in prison. For calls for the imposition of sanctions, an administrative fine is assumed at first, then criminal liability of up to three years in prison. The spreading of “fakes” leads to up to 15 years in prison.

Rejection of the Bologna system of higher education

On 24 May, Valery Falkov, head of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, called the European Bologna system, which involves the division of higher education into two stages — bachelor’s and master’s degree, “a closed chapter”. The agency planned to abandon it and develop a domestic system of higher education. In June, all Russian educational organizations were excluded from the Bologna educational process.

Amendments abolishing the upper age limit for concluding a contract with the Russian Army

Came into force: 28 May

Previously, a contract with the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation could be signed by Russian citizens aged 18 to 40 years and foreigners aged 18 to 30 years. Now those who are older can join the ranks of the Russian army too — prior to the end of working age.

As the legislators explained, the changes were necessary in order to attract highly professional specialists who have the skills to use high-precision weapons, as well as to operate weapons and military equipment. Specialists reach this level by the age of 40-45. The abolition of the upper age limit will help attract specialists of “sought-after specialities” — doctors, engineers, technicians, signalmen, and others.

The law on non-enforcement of ECHR rulings issued after 15 March

Came into force: 11 June, separate provisions — from 1 January 2023

Also, according to the text of the law, the decisions of the Russian courts have precedence over the decisions of the ECHR. Payments of monetary compensation under the ECHR resolutions, which came into force before 15 March, are made only in roubles and only to accounts in Russian banks.

On March 16, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe expelled Russia from the organization for “gross violations of the charter incompatible with the status of a member state” and for non-fulfilment of its obligations to the European Court of Human Rights. Russia lost its status as a party to the European Convention on Human Rights on 16 September.

Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Photo:  Concil of Europe

Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Photo: Concil of Europe

Laws on the legalisation of parallel imports to Russia and on overtime work of businesses on state orders for the needs of war

The law on parallel import, which came into force on 28 June, allows one to import a number of goods to Russia without the permission of the copyright holder. In May, the Ministry of Industry and Trade published a list of goods for parallel imports. It included, among other things, smartphones and appliances under the brands Apple, Asus, HP, Panasonic, Samsung, cars and spare parts for them under the brands Tesla, Land Rover, Jeep, Jaguar, as well as a number of other products.

The initiative on overtime work of business for the needs of the war came into force on 24 July. It gives the government the authority to establish “the procedure and conditions for engaging in work outside the established working hours, at night, on weekends and non-working holidays, and the provision of annual paid holidays.” Companies will not be able to refuse to conclude a contract and fulfil a state order, while customers (the Russian Defence Ministry, the FSB, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the National Guard) will be able to change the volume and price of the contract themselves.

The law on the extrajudicial closure of media for “fakes” and “obvious disrespect” to the state

Came into force: 14 July

The law gave the Prosecutor General and his deputies the right to close foreign media without a trial “in case of hostile decisions against Russian media abroad.” The Prosecutor General’s Office also received the authority to revoke broadcasting licences if the media, which according to the Russian authorities, spreads “illegal and dangerous information”, “fakes”, as well as messages expressing “clear disrespect for society, the state, the Constitution of the Russian Federation and aimed at discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.”

The decision to revoke the licence will be sent to Russia’s censorship agency Roskomnadzor. At that, if the media eliminates the “violations” within six months, it will be able to resume its activities also by the decision of Roskomnadzor.

The law equating the transition to the enemy side in an armed conflict to treason

Came into force: 14 July, separate provisions — from 1 January 2023

Now, those participating in an illegal armed formation against the Russian Federation (in fact, volunteers who want to fight for Ukraine) face from 12 to 20 years in prison. The document increases the responsibility for espionage and treason: for the collection, storage, and transfer to the enemy of information that can be used against the Russian Armed Forces, they will be imprisoned for a period of 10 to 20 years.

The law equates defection to the enemy in an armed conflict with treason and punishes it with up to 20 years in prison. “Cooperation on a confidential basis with a foreigner or a foreign organization in order to assist them in activities knowingly directed against the security of the Russian Federation”: imprisonment for a term of three to eight years with a fine of up to one million roubles.

The law also envisages up to three years of imprisonment for those who had access to state secrets and could not leave the Russian Federation, but violated this ban. Moving and forwarding carriers of classified information abroad to people who have access to state secrets is punishable by up to four years imprisonment.

The document also criminalizes the recruitment of mercenaries in armed conflicts — up to 20 years in prison. For public appeals to activities that threaten the security of the state, one faces imprisonment for up to five years. For repeated “propaganda of extremism” — up to four years in prison.

Decree on mobilisation

Came into force: 21 September

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an appeal in which he stated that Russians who served in the army and are in reserve can be called up to Ukraine as part of a “partial mobilization”. He promised that before being sent to the unit, everyone would necessarily undergo “additional military training”. According to the president, payments equated to the number of wages of contract workers are provided for the mobilised.

Later, the parliament adopted a number of laws on “bonuses” for the mobilised: for example, on the preservation of employment contracts with those who went to war, on the cancellation of loans in case of death, on deferral of taxes, on alternative service, and others. In October, the authorities allowed the mobilisation of citizens with outstanding convictions for serious crimes.

The law on imprisonment for voluntary surrender and refusal to participate in military action

Came into force: 24 September

According to the law following the decree on mobilisation, up to 10 years in prison are provided for voluntary surrender. A person who has committed this crime for the first time can avoid criminal liability — if they have taken measures for their release, returned to the place of service and did not commit other crimes during his captivity.

Those called up for military training from the reserve will be punished for non-appearance or unauthorised abandonment of the duty station, on a par with contract employees. Release from punishment is possible if the unauthorised abandonment of the duty station was preceded by a “confluence of difficult circumstances”.

Imprisonment for up to 10 years is provided for refusing to participate in combat, “entailing grave consequences”. The same punishment is assumed for non-fulfilment by a serviceman of the order of the superior. Up to 15 years for violence against a superior in military service. The Criminal Code also introduces the article “Looting” — from six to 15 years.

“Incorporation of the occupied territories of Ukraine into Russia”

On 5 October, Putin signed laws on the admission to Russia of the self-proclaimed “DPR”, “LPR”, as well as the occupied territories of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, and on the formation of new subjects. They were preceded by the holding of “referendums” in the occupied territories.

In December, the State Duma adopted in the first reading a bill introducing fines for the distribution of maps “challenging the territorial integrity of Russia”. Such maps, as well as other documents and images, can be attributed to extremist materials. For their distribution, Russians will face a fine of up to three thousand rubles (€38) or arrest for up to 15 days, and a fine of 100 thousand to one million rubles (€1,270 to €12,700) for legal entities.

The law allowing to brand people “foreign agents” without foreign financing

Came into force: 1 December

The law introduces one single register of “foreign agents” instead of four, as well as a register of “affiliated agents”. Now it is not necessary to receive foreign funding to enter the list: it is enough to conduct political activities, “be under foreign influence” or collect data on Russia’s military-technical activities that “can be used against the security of the country”.

“Foreign agents” were banned from educating children, being members of election commissions or organizers of public events, working in state and municipal service. In addition, later the parliament adopted a law on fines for “malicious” violation of the law on “foreign agents” — up to a million rubles, but criminal liability is also possible.

Initiatives on the classification of federal data and information on procurement of state-owned companies

From March next year, Russia’s federal state registration service Rosreestr will stop publishing information about owners in an extract from the Unified State Register of Real Estate (EGRN). Data about the owners will be available only with their own permission.

In addition, sub-sanctioned state-owned companies received the power to classify information about their purchases and not publish it in the Unified Information System in the Field of Public Procurement (UIS). As Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported, the closure of data on part of the purchases of Russian state-owned companies that fell under sanctions distorted the statistics on them, since now even the Ministry of Finance does not see all the information.

Law banning “propaganda” of LGBT and gender reassignment

Came into force: 5 December

The document provides for the introduction of administrative responsibility for the “propaganda” of “non-traditional relationships”, paedophilia, sex change through the Internet, mass media, books, movies, and advertising. It also extends the effect of existing articles of the Administrative Code on the prohibition of “LGBT propaganda” to all ages. It is also possible to expel a foreigner from the Russian Federation for “LGBT propaganda”.

Fines are expected for the offence: up to 400,000 rubles (€5,100) for individuals, up to 800,000 (€10,200) for officials and up to five million roubles (€63,750) for legal entities.

“The decision will protect our children, the future of the country, from the darkness spread by the United States and European states. We have our own traditions and values,” said State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, commenting on the adoption of the law.

The law allowing the FSB to gain access to Russian taxi rides

Comes into force: 1 March 2023, certain provisions — from 1 September, 2023

Taxi aggregators will be required to open regional representative offices. There will be two taxi registers — a united one and by region. Carriers will be obliged to keep a travel log (electronic or paper) that will store data for six months, and security forces and authorities will be able to access it upon request.

The bill imposes responsibility on the aggregator if damage was caused to the passenger or their property during the trip, and if the carrier failed to fulfil its obligations. In addition, it prohibits drivers who have more than three unpaid fines, who have been deprived of their driver’s license over the past year and those who have not repaid a criminal record for violent crimes from working in a taxi (Russian law offers a different fate to those convicted — for example, they can now fight in Ukraineeditor’s note).

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.