Stick for People, Carrot for Officials: Authorities Show Russians with Record Number of Bans

Stick for People, Carrot for Officials: Authorities Show Russians with Record Number of Bans


It should be said how the Russians were presented with a basket of these changes. They were hastily approved by the State Duma deputies and then by the Federation Council, the upper house of Russian parliament, in just a couple of days. After that, Vladimir Putin signed more than a dozen bills.

Collecting of all the legislative initiatives prepared by various authorities, adopted by the State Duma and coming into force in the near future has become a sort of tradition for the Russian mass media. In doing so, they tell readers how their lives are likely to change with the onset of a new year. Compilations of this kind are prepared by media outlets of all levels for each month, quarter, and, of course, year.

For instance, at the very end of last year, on December 30 and 31, published articles on how the life of the Russian residents would change on January 1. There were a lot of interesting stories. So, it became known that since the beginning of 2021, the Labor Code would be amended in Russia. As a result, the definition and the regulatory standards of remote has been introduced. In addition, people are expected to pay new fines for violation of certain traffic rules. Reporters also mention that the year of 2021 will bring the country a spike in prices for alcohol. However, as it turned out, all of these changes fade away in comparison with the legislative acts that were expected to come into force in 2021. They will be related to the "crackdown," which is traditional for the Russian authorities in recent years. is not going to accuse its colleagues of bias or an attempt to conceal important information. In this case, it is related to the peculiarity of Vladimir Putin's way of thinking which is long familiar to many Russian political analysts. “Putin likes to surprise and to make decisions at the very last moment,” they say. It happened this time, too. On December 30, the Russian President signed a bunch of laws that the media later called “a record-breaking package of prohibitive acts” in the modern history of the country. One only has to look closely at the real meaning of some of them to understand that the federal government is not only going to "get tough on," but to do it with high precision and irrevocably.

Stick for People

It is no joke. The Russian authorities decided to toughen restrictions on almost everything one can imagine – the Internet, social life, protest activities, and reporting. At the same time, as if to illustrate the absurd character of the situation, additional guarantees for law enforcement officers and officials were provided. It should be added how the Russians became aware of the above-mentioned changes. These amendments were hastily approved by the State Duma deputies and then by the Federation Council in just a couple of days. After that, Vladimir Putin put his signature on more than a dozen bills, irrevocably paving the way for them to the new daily life of Russians.

Thus, today, the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) is empowered to block and to slow down access to foreign Internet resources that "restrict meaningful information on the territory of the Russian Federation" or "perpetrate cases of discrimination against materials published by Russian media. This document will control the access to Facebook, Google, YouTube, and Twitter. All of them block the accounts of federal publications, as well as restrict the distribution of materials and content by Vladimir Soloviev, the most “fact-based” of the Russian reporters.

In addition, at present, social networks with 500,000+ users per day are required to maintain corresponding records and to provide content moderation removing content that is illegal. In terms of Russian law, of course. Finally, they are now obliged to keep a record of users' complaints. Violators will get not just fines but exactly the ones adopted by lawmakers not so long ago and, again, signed by Vladimir Putin at the end of 2020.

The Russian President also approved the law according to which amendments would be made to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation as well. They suggest that the circulation of slander on the Internet and via other open sources will be punished with up to two years in prison. Moreover, this norm will be applicable even if the libel is related to “unspecified persons.” In other words, even the phrase “officials have embezzled the budget” can now result in criminal prosecution.

The list of documents signed by the President also includes new standards in relation to physical persons and foreign agents. Their list was expanded. In addition, new requirements were introduced, and responsibility got higher.

Rallies and protest actions are another interesting aspect. According to one of the laws approved by Vladimir Putin, the court will have the power to declare even a solitary picket as a mass public event. Also, it is not allowed to hold rallies near the buildings of emergency services. Reporters will no longer be allowed to report on protests or rallies and take part in them at the same time.

Carrot for Officials

As for the army of millions of Russian law-enforcement personnel and officials, the new rules, on the contrary, will guarantee them relaxed existence. It is forbidden to disclose information about the private lives and property rights of employees of the Interior Ministry, the military, the Federal Guard Service, state security agencies, and representatives of regulatory bodies. In particular, the Federal Tax Service, Federal Customs Service, Federal Antimonopoly Service, the Accounts Chamber and Federal Financial Monitoring Service. To put it simply, it is now even more difficult to stimulate officials not only to work for the benefit of Russian society but at least not to disregard the law.

Of course, this is not a full list of New Year's “gifts” to the Russians from the government. Moreover, experienced lawyers are likely to tell us about possible law enforcement practices after they come into force while political scientists might evaluate the actions of the federal center. However, the point is still the same. Chances are life in the country will change again. Not in the sense of doubling the price of bread or raising taxes, of course. This is about the fact that in the future, it will be possible to increase taxes and prices of bread as much as one wants without consequences for the initiators. Certainly, the most attention will be focused on the notorious transit of power. Most likely, these norms are introduced for the sake of it. They allow not just to clear up but actually to “sterilize” the information field and the potential discontent. But as practice shows, after securing the primary goal the authorities begin to focus on the next ones that are related to prices and tax pressure. So, it is high time to slightly reword Joseph Stalin's famous phrase “life has improved, life has become more joyous.”

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