Public backlash pressures Russian lawmakers to pause adoption of legislation that would criminalize ‘observing or facilitating’ new foreign sanctions

Meduza
13:14, 17 may 2018

In a press release on Wednesday, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs stated its “categorical” opposition to draft legislation making its way through the State Duma that would criminalize observing or facilitating foreign sanctions against Russian citizens and Russian enterprises. The organization’s executive board says the law contradicts Vladimir Putin’s stated policy goals by creating “additional conditions for administrative pressure on businesses.”

The union warns that foreign countries could target Russian business owners with “secondary sanctions” for obeying the government’s proposed ban on observing Western sanctions, which would limit their access to global markets and ultimately hurt the Russian economy. The organization also objects to the criminalization of sharing information that could facilitate new foreign sanctions, arguing that this could apply to entrepreneurs who disclose information about the activities of their business partners.

Lawmakers are close to passing a bill that would impose criminal penalties on anybody who observes or even promotes Western sanctions. The legislation has won the endorsement of the speakers of both houses of parliament, the State Duma’s first deputy speakers, the heads of all political parties with seats in the Duma, the federal government, and Russia’s Supreme Court.

If adopted, it would criminalize a common form of activism among Russia’s democratic opposition. The State Duma adopted a first reading of this legislation on May 15, and deputies planned to vote on a second reading on May 17, but it was postponed, in order to conduct “additional consultations with business and expert communities.”