President Vladimir Putin approved the amendments to the law "On Countering Extremist Activity."
On July 28, 2006, president Vladimir Putin approved the amendments to the law "On Countering Extremist Activity." The amendments have raised great concern within civil society in Russia, but the criticism seems not to have been taken into consideration as the bill moved quickly through the State Duma (lower chamber of parliament): the first, second, and third readings were held on June 28, July 7, and July 8, respectively. On July 14, the Council of Federation (upper chamber of parliament) approved the bill, even though some of the senators surprisingly criticized it for representing a threat to civil rights.
Being already alarmingly broad, the new, amended definition of extremism now includes libel of state officials (when they are accused of extremist activity). Even though the fact of libel must be proven in court, it has nonetheless become more dangerous to criticize public officials. For example, it's possible to accuse an official of corruption without running afoul of the law. But an accusation of "misappropriation of authority" by election falsification could be considered "libelous accusation of extremism".
As a result of another amendment to the law, any kind of violence against the authorities is considered to be an act of extremism. And it could be not only a violent act against a policeman during a demonstration dispersal (which might originally be self-defense), but also any violent obstacles to the work of state institutions. For example, on February 6, 2006, activists of National Bolsheviks party (NBP) entered and temporarily took control over a military recruitment office without the use of force and demanded the resignation of the Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov. Such an act can be just a one-time offence, which may not necessarily characterize an organization as a socially dangerous one, but nonetheless allows the state close it. It means that all organizations practicing street protests now risk facing prosecution under this new version of the law.
Furthermore, any public appeal for, or justification of, or even simple expression of sympathy with an alleged extremist act are now considered acts of extremism as well. Thus, because of this broad definition of extremism, any call for civic disobedience or justification of it is forbidden by law. For example, both the inhabitants of the country houses in the Juzhnoye Butovo district in Moscow, who have protested their houses being destroyed, and the members of the Public Chamber Anatoliy Kucherena and Nikolay Svanidze, who justified the resistance of those residents to the officers of the court, could be considered to have engaged in extremist activity. Strangely enough, there is no legal procedure to bring extremism charges against individuals (e.g. against either Kucherena and Svanidze, or people from Juzhnoye Butovo, who sought to resist and physically prevent the actions of state officials) as there is no criminal or administrative responsibility for an individual who violates the anti-extremism law in this respect. It is however possible to close any newspaper or TV channel for reporting on such a situation with sympathy.
On the whole, the broad definition of extremism and the possibility to close any organization or mass media for expressing sympathy with some extremist activity create a perfect system of control and suppression of the extraparliamentary opposition in Russia and any kind of street manifestations.