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Russia's Duma OKs more power for security service

Russia's Duma OKs more power for security service

Russia's lower house of parliament approved a bill Friday that would widen the powers of the Federal Security Service, the KGB's main successor agency _ a proposal that has alarmed opposition activists.
The bill would allow the agency, known by its initials FSB, to issue warnings to people suspected of preparing to commit crimes against Russia's security. Critics say this power could be used to intimidate government opponents and stifle protests.
The bill was approved in the State Duma by a vote of 354-96. Members of the Communist and A Just Russia parties voted against it.
"The new proposed law returns to the FSB the power of the special services of a totalitarian regime," a statement signed by prominent pro-democracy and human rights activists said. "The initiators, most likely, intend to create an instrument for mass intimidation of people who are dissatisfied, dissidents and critics of the authorities _ including the FSB."
The statement calls on the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, to reject the bill. But such a move appears strongly unlikely; the Federation Council is seen largely as a rubber-stamp body for the government.
The bill has raised doubts about President Dmitry Medvedev's commitment to promoting full-fledged democracy and freedom of expression. Medvedev often has spoken of instituting judicial and police reforms, and has taken a less hard line on many issues than his predecessor Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent and later head of the FSB.
Putin is now prime minister and many see his intolerance of dissent as influencing the Kremlin.
But Medvedev, when asked at a news conference Thursday about the proposed law, said it was his initiative and said the country has "the right to improve its own legislation."
Opposition groups frequently are denied permission to hold rallies or are allowed to hold them only in out-of-the-way neighborhoods. Riot police often break up unsanctioned rally attempts swiftly and brutally.
The liberal party Yabloko said three of its activists were arrested outside the Duma as they protested the bill that was about to be voted on.


Updated : 2020-11-30 07:33 GMT+08:00