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UK intel: Russian government floats bill to threaten livelihoods of vocal opponents to Ukraine invasion

Russia moves to restrict domestic criticism of its war in Ukraine by proposing asset seizure against dissenters while designating critics “Foreign Agents” facing severe limits, per UK intelligence.
The Red Square in Moscow. Credit: The Center for European Policy Analysis
UK intel: Russian government floats bill to threaten livelihoods of vocal opponents to Ukraine invasion

The Russian parliament is considering a bill allowing the seizure of property from Russians openly criticizing the military, which builds on stringent “Foreign Agents” laws used to silence dissent, according to the intelligence update by the British Defense Ministry.

The Ministry wrote:

  • On 22 January 2024, the Russian state Duma, or lower house, discussed a bill to seize the financial assets, including property, of Russians who openly criticise the Russian military and the ‘special military operation’. A number of prominent Russian writers and a musician have been sentenced in recent months for their criticism of the war.
  • In July 2022, Russian President Putin approved amendments to the 2012 ‘Foreign Agents Law, which came into force on 01 December 2022. This legislation has been widely used to repress opponents of the regime. According to OVID-Info, a Russian human rights monitoring agency, in 2023, 217 individuals and organisations were designated ‘Foreign Agents’. As of 03 November 2023, according to the Russian Ministry of Justice, the total list of ‘Foreign Agents’ was 707. ‘Foreign Agents’ include independent Russian news outlets and human rights organisations, many of which have been forced to operate outside of Russia.
  • This legislation highly likely seeks to deter and silence anti-war opposition. This recent bill in conjunction with the Foreign Agents measures, likely intends to restrict criticism of the war altogether.

Last fall, Russia restricted open discussion at universities ahead of Putin’s expected 2024 re-election bid, tightening control of narratives and dissent in wartime Russia. An opinion poll at the time showed that 61% of Russians considered ‘foreign agents’ to be ‘traitors’ who ‘disseminate lies’ about Russia.

Updating its “foreign agents laws,” the Kremlin was likely acting pre-emptively to prevent greater domestic dissent by further extending the state’s repressive powers, the British Defense Ministry’s November 30 intelligence update suggested.

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