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New year, new rules Putin has signed approximately 100 laws ahead of 2021. Here are the main ones, in a nutshell.

Source: Meduza
Mikhail Klimentev / Kremlin Press Service / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

Heading into the new year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been busying signing a flurry of new legislation into law. As a result, in 2021, there will be updated rules governing everything from NGOs and protests, to the Russian Internet and more. Meduza sums up the most important pieces of legislation, in a nutshell.

Nearly anyone can be labeled a ‘foreign agent’

One of Russia’s newly adopted “foreign agent” laws allows for this label to be applied to ordinary citizens and unregistered organizations that are involved in politics in Russia (broadly defined) and receive assistance from other countries. The other law outlines punishments of up to five years in prison for potential foreign agents who do not register their status themselves or foreign agents who fail to report on their activities. This law has already come into force. 

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What you need to know about Russia’s updated ‘foreign agent’ laws

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What you need to know about Russia’s updated ‘foreign agent’ laws

Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter could get blocked for ‘censoring’ Russian content

Roskomnadzor (Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media) has been empowered to fully or partially block online resources that restrict publicly significant information in Russia, including in connection with anti-Russian sanctions. The authors behind the law said that it was addressed to foreign social networks, but it could impact Russian companies, as well.

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To block or not to block Will Roskomnadzor actually restrict access to major sites like YouTube for ‘censoring’ Russian content?

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To block or not to block Will Roskomnadzor actually restrict access to major sites like YouTube for ‘censoring’ Russian content?

At the same time, social networks face huge fines over information banned in Russia

Hosting providers and site owners who refuse to remove information banned in Russia now face high fines ranging from several hundred thousand to several million rubles. And the penalties for repeatedly refusing to remove banned content will amount to 10 to 20 percent of company revenue, meaning Internet giants like YouTube and Facebook could theoretically be fined millions or even billions of dollars. 

Social networks are also expected to find and remove illegal information — but there are no fines for failing to do so

Social networks that are visited by more than 500,000 Russian users daily will be included in a special Roskomnadzor registry. The owners of these sites have been ordered to moderate and remove information prohibited by law. This law comes into force on February 1, 2021, but it doesn’t outline any penalties for failure to comply with it.

Stricter rules for demonstrations 

Going forward, protest organizers are banned from receiving money from abroad. Another law has prohibited journalists covering demonstrations from behaving like ordinary participants in a rally, for example, by campaigning or distributing leaflets. The law also prohibits organizing rallies near emergency services buildings and allows Russian courts to recognize queues for single-person pickets as group demonstrations.

Blocking streets is now a criminal offense

A new law stipulates up to a year in prison for those who block roads and obstruct the movement of vehicles and pedestrians (this happens during rallies). If, through negligence, a person sustains minor injuries due to a blocked roadway, the maximum sentence is two years in prison, moderate injuries carry a three-year sentence, serious bodily harm is punishable by four years, and a death can lead to five years in prison.

Defamation committed online is punishable by up to two years in prison

This law introduces criminal liability for spreading defamatory information about another person online. This is punishable by a fine of up to 1 million rubles (about $13,400), up 240 hours of community service, up to two years of compulsory labor, up to two months in detention, or up to two years imprisonment. 

New fines for promoting drugs online

  • Fines for ordinary citizens range from 5,000 to 30,000 rubles (about $67–$400)
  • For government officials and individual business owners, fines range from 50,000 to 100,000 rubles (about $670–$1,340)
  • Fines for legal entities are between 1 million and 1.5 million rubles (about $13,400–$20,115)
  • Foreigners will be fined between 4,000 and 30,000 rubles (about $54–$400), and will be expelled from Russia

Less transparency about property belonging to state officials and their relatives

Any personal data operators, for example, government agencies or mobile phone operators, are prohibited from disclosing personal information and data about property belonging to judges, prosecutors, investigators, military servicemen, law enforcement officers and regulatory officials, as well as individuals close to them. 

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An unbeatable disappearing act New legislation in Russia will dramatically reduce transparency when it comes to state officials and their relatives. We asked investigative journalists how this affects their work.

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An unbeatable disappearing act New legislation in Russia will dramatically reduce transparency when it comes to state officials and their relatives. We asked investigative journalists how this affects their work.

Sobering-up stations are coming back after 10 years

As of January 1, 2021, Russia’s regions will be able to set up fee-based medical stations for those who need to recover from alcohol consumption (these sobering-up stations were dissolved in 2011). 

The minimum wage and subsistence minimum will be calculated on new terms

The Russian authorities have decided to calculate the minimum wage and the subsistence minimum based on median income, rather than on a market basket. As of January 1, 2021, the subsistence minimum will be 11,653 rubles a month (about $156, up from the current 11,468 rubles — $154) and the minimum wage will be 12,792 rubles a month (about $172, up from the current 12,130 rubles — $163).

Raising the age limit for ‘youth’ to 35 years old

Prior to this law, people in the age group 14–30 were considered “youth” in Russia.

Fines for government officials who insult Russian citizens

The fines amount to between 50,000 and 100,000 rubles (about $670–$1,340) for the first offense, and up to 150,000 rubles (approximately $2,000) for repeat offenses.

The regions will be allowed to demolish Soviet-era apartment blocks

The law on nationwide renovation (officially known as the law “on the integrated development of territories”), provides for resettlement and the demolition of unsafe and run-down buildings. The regions have been empowered to knock down not only damaged housing and buildings already slated for demolition, but also undamaged panel houses (Soviet-era apartment blocks), and houses requiring major repairs that are too costly for the authorities.

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Text by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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