Putin ratifies law making it high treason to switch sides in armed conflict

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ratified a law that makes it high treason to change sides in an armed conflict, something that could be applied to the war in Ukraine.

The law amends article 275 of the country's Criminal Code to introduce the offence of "high treason" in connection with a possible change of sides. Those found guilty under the new legislation could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, according to the Interfax news agency.

In addition, it grants criminal liability to Russian citizens involved in armed conflicts who "do not play in Russia's interests" in the absence of any evidence of treason. In such cases, prison sentences of between 12 and 20 years are stipulated.

On the other hand, it establishes penalties for those involved in the activities of organisations considered "undesirable" by the Russian government abroad.

It also establishes sentences of between three and eight years for espionage offences, including cooperation with representatives of foreign governments and international organisations, although such persons may be released if they cooperate with the Russian authorities.

This includes transferring, collecting, stealing or storing for the purpose of transferring to the enemy information that can be used against the Russian Armed Forces. The actions in question will be punishable by between ten and twenty years' imprisonment.

The legislation defines as an enemy "any foreign state and international organisation that opposes Russia in an armed conflict".

Calls for actions and activities against the Russian government can lead to fines of between 100,000 and 500,000 roubles (between 1,600 and 8,400 euros), rising to 1 million roubles (around 16,800 euros) if official channels, the media or the internet are used for this purpose.

The new legislation also increases penalties for recruiting, training and financing mercenaries during hostilities and armed conflicts. The penalties now amount to up to 18 years' imprisonment if found guilty.


Putin has also signed a law extending existing regulations on so-called "foreign agents", which states that "Russian or foreign entities, public associations and foreign structures operating without establishing a legal entity regardless of their citizenship" may be classified as such.

This will not, however, affect Russian public entities and bodies, such as state corporations, religious and business associations that have already been registered, according to state news agencies.

The law defines a foreign agent as "any person who has received support from abroad or is under other forms of foreign influence and engages in political activities, intentional collection of information on Russia's activity in the military or military-technical sphere or distributes messages and materials intended for an unlimited circle of persons".

In this regard, it is planned to create a single register of foreign agents instead of the current four, as well as a register of persons affiliated with these agents.

A person who engages in political activities and receives funds and/or other property from foreign agents, whether through intermediaries, will also be recognised as an affiliate. Persons affiliated with foreign agents shall not be subject to the requirements and restrictions established for foreign agents.

The new law prohibits foreign agents from engaging in teaching and education of minors in Russia, producing information products for children and adolescents, transferring and receiving funds or other property from foreign agents during public events and receiving financial support from the state.

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