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22 June, 2024
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Russia's 'loyalty agreements' pose threat to foreigners' freedom of expression

When will Russia's draft legislation restricting speech become law?


In a move that raises concerns over freedom of expression, Russia's interior ministry has drafted legislation requiring foreigners to sign a "loyalty agreement" upon entry.

According to a report on Reuters, the proposed agreement prohibits criticism of official policy, discrediting Soviet military history, and contravening traditional family values.

This development comes amid a series of stringent laws introduced since President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops into Ukraine in February 2022. The laws target discrediting the military, resulting in lengthy jail sentences for opposition activists.

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Putin frames the conflict as an existential battle against the West, vowing to defend Russia's "sacred" civilization from perceived Western decadence.

According to TASS state news agency, the draft legislation would restrict foreigners from interfering with Russian public authorities, criticizing state policies, and engaging in certain discussions about morality, family, and history.

Notably, it prohibits distorting the historical truth about the Soviet people's role in World War Two.

The draft's specifics, including applicable punishments and targeted foreigners, remain unclear. Opposition activists and foreign diplomats in Moscow have expressed concerns about escalating restrictions on dissent, especially in the lead-up to the presidential election.

The Kremlin has yet to comment on the initiative, and for the draft to become law, it must go through parliamentary processes, including review by the State Duma.

While some argue that censorship is necessary during the Ukraine conflict, critics warn that such measures erode free speech.

As Russia tightens its grip on dissent, the proposed "loyalty agreement" adds another layer to the complex landscape of restrictions faced by foreigners, particularly those from "unfriendly countries" as defined by Russia.

[With information sourced from Reuters]

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