Russia approves ban on ‘foreign agents’

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, called for the initiative to be dropped as it was being approved by lawmakers.

 (R-L) Russia's State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, President Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, who was nominated as the candidate for the post of Prime Minister, walk before a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow Russia May 8, 2018. (photo credit: Sputnik/Alexander Astafyev/Pool via REUTERS)
(R-L) Russia's State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, President Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, who was nominated as the candidate for the post of Prime Minister, walk before a session of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, in Moscow Russia May 8, 2018.
(photo credit: Sputnik/Alexander Astafyev/Pool via REUTERS)

Russia's new laws tightening the restrictions on the activities of "foreign agents" within Russia went into effect on Thursday after a majority vote by the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

A registered media outlet "of which a foreign agent is a participant (founder), must contain an indication that such a media outlet was created by a foreign agent" states the new law.

The website of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, also called the State Duma, posted an informational article for the public to read in June 2022 when the law was initially proposed, and quoted several Russian lawmakers at the time of the proposition. 

Several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, called for the initiative to be dropped as it was being approved by lawmakers.

Who is a foreign agent?

 Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses heads of security and intelligence agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states via a video link in Moscow, Russia October 26, 2022.  (credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI BABUSHKIN/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS) Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses heads of security and intelligence agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member states via a video link in Moscow, Russia October 26, 2022. (credit: SPUTNIK/ALEXEI BABUSHKIN/KREMLIN VIA REUTERS)

According to the State Duma, "a foreign agent is a person who received support from foreign states or is under foreign influence and is engaged in political activities in Russia, purposefully gathering information on military, military-technical activities of the Russian Federation or disseminating messages and materials for [an] unlimited number of people."

“Interference has taken place through the entire existence of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. We see the cases of interference even today from the US, the UK and other European states. Every country must defend itself if it thinks about its future,” stated the Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin during the discussion of the law.

There were concerns that the Jewish Agency in Russia as well as other Russian Jewish organizations would be targeted as foreign agents, but the concerns were laid to rest after the Jewish Agency's Israeli legal delegation to Russia met with Russia's Ministry of Justice in August

Practical implications

Those designated as foreign agents will also be prohibited from holding meetings and rallies, and from gathering in public buildings or beside such buildings, according to TASS.

Furthermore, according to the law, meetings and marches in Russia will now be prohibited in places of worship as well as on land plots where such places are located. This is excepting public places where public worship or other public religious rites and ceremonies are held.

Russian law also requires so-called foreign agents to submit regular reports on their funding, objectives, how they spend their money and who their managers are.

Reuters contributed to this report.