State Duma votes to ban Russian lawmakers from unauthorised travel abroad

Vyacheslav Volodin. Photo: EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

Vyacheslav Volodin. Photo: EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

A bill banning lawmakers from leaving Russia without first gaining consent from the Kremlin has passed the first of its three readings in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, the chamber’s website announced on Thursday.

The bill banning members of both the State Duma and the Federation Council from unauthorised travel abroad whether on official business or undertaken privately, will also make it possible for anyone violating the law to be deprived of their mandates.

“It will be necessary to justify where a person is going,” Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin who first introduced the bill, said, adding “If they’re travelling to Lake Baikal, we’ll support that. Or the Volga, we’d be glad. But if it’s to the Maldives or Bali, then … we understand that would be a disservice to the country and to our voters.”

At present, Duma deputies must seek approval from a Duma committee for all foreign travel, though failure to do so cannot be used as the grounds for withdrawing a politician’s mandate. The ban on deputies undertaking unauthorised travel reflects a wider trend that has seen the Kremlin control the conduct of its officials ever more closely.

On 6 May, the State Duma approved a bill banning lawmakers and officials who have been deemed “foreign agents” from seeking political office. The bill was introduced after politicians labelled as “foreign agents” attempted to register as candidates in parliamentary elections.

While many Russian officials have been subject to travel bans and have had sanctions imposed by the West since the start of the war in Ukraine, in April Reuters detailed how Russia had tightened travel restrictions for its officials over fears that foreign governments might be able to gain access to state secrets.

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