A bill classifying wartime defection to the enemy as treason has been signed into law by President Putin

Russia has introduced more severe punishments for actions that it considers detrimental to its national interests, such as joining the enemy during wartime or fighting against the country in foreign armed conflicts. The legislation was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

The bill is meant to ensure more effective “detection, prevention and disruption of criminal activity aimed at undermining the foundation of constitutional order, defense and security” of Russia, according to its sponsors.

The law amends various parts of the Russian Criminal Code. Among other things, it equates to state treason joining enemy forces during wartime, a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Russian citizens and residents who would take up arms and actively fight in third countries “with goals contradicting the interests” of Russia will face up to 20 years in prison. The previous version of the article provided for a jail term of up to 15 years for simply joining the ranks of an unlawful militia. A part of the law that didn’t change is that first-time offenders may lay down arms voluntarily and be amnestied.

Other changes relate to activities from cooperating with foreign intelligence services and failing to protect classified information entrusted to the offender to disrupting internet traffic in Russia and making public calls that harm national security.

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Russia may expand definition of ‘treason’

One of the amended articles, which covers hate crimes, criminalizes the repeated public demonstration of Nazi symbols or the symbols of extremist groups. This offense will be punishable by a four-year prison term, though the law provides judges leeway to choose other measures, such as heavy fines and community service.

MP Ernest Valeyev, one of the sponsors of the bill, argued that Russia needed to update the Criminal Code to meet “the challenges of our time.” It was not adequate to certain situations that can arise, for example, from the deployment of Russian troops in Syria, he said in an interview.

The legislation was first introduced in the Russian State Duma in late May. The parliament approved it in its final third reading in early July, with the upper chamber, the Federation Council, giving the green light last Friday.

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