Vladimir Putin has signed into law reforms of the rules of engagement for officers of the Federal Security Service (FSB), allowing agents to fire into crowds, if they deem it necessary for the prevention of a terrorist attack or armed attack on a government building, or in order to free hostages.
The law also allows FSB agents to shoot women and children, if they put up armed resistance, commit a terrorist attack, or take part in an attack by an armed group.
According to the new law, officers are obligated to warn individuals before opening fire. They are permitted to skip this step, however, if any delay is deemed to put civilians' lives at risk.
If an FSB agent's actions lead to the injury or death of anyone under the new rules of engagement, FSB officials are required to inform the Attorney General within 24 hours. Individual FSB agents will not be held accountable for any loss of life or property resulting from these actions. Any compensation awarded to victims will be paid from the state budget.
With Putin's signature, the law takes effect immediately.
According to Vladimir Dzhabarov, one of the law's sponsors in the Federation Assembly, Russia's previous rules of engagement required state prosecutors to review each occasion when an FSB agent discharged their weapon. “This often creates unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles for the staff,” Dzhabarov explained.
After the terrorist attack that downed a Russian passenger jet in Egypt earlier this year, Nikolai Kovalev, the former head of the FSB, demanded that the state grant agents the right to use their weapons even in large crowds, if a terrorist threat exists.