Under President Vladimir Putin’s revised law, any Russian with knowledge of a “state secret” – even if they don’t tell anyone – can be thrown in prison for up to twenty years. Critics fear the law follows a series of recent moves including hefty protest fines and recent Internet censorship they say silence dissidence.
The Russian government insists the new ruling is necessary to dissuade treason. According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a government-run Russian newspaper, “citizens recruited by international organizations acting against the country’s interests will…be considered traitors.”
The Associated Press reports that those charged could include anyone who gives information to a foreign organization, such as journalists or those working closely with foreigners. Putin has strongly condemned Western NGOs as trying to disrupt Russian security, as well as a pointing at the United States for inciting protests in Russia.
Putin returned as President last May after a brief hiatus as prime minister. His victory was met with fraud allegations and mass protests.