Russian Parliament to Ban ‘Undesirable’ Foreigners From Entering the Country

November 24, 2017

On Wednesday November 22 the Russian State Duma Committee decided to resuscitate a long forgotten draft law that gives parliament permission to prohibit foreigners from entering the country if their actions “infringe universally recognized values in Russia”.

Deputy Rivzan Kurbanov and senator Lyudmila Bokova first introduced the bill back in 2014. Yet, at the time it received a negative review from the government, which pointed out that the document does not indicate a criteria on how counter action would be applied

It is no coincidence that this dead and buried law has been revived only 4 years later when Russia is playing a back-and-forth game of sanctions with the US. An entry ban will be proposed for foreigners who have committed acts “threatening Russia’s national interests or infringing upon the interests of the individual, society, state and the unanimously recognized in Russia national, historical, spiritual, cultural or other social values that are protected in Russia.”

The initiative is another counter action against the decision of the US congress to pass the The Magnitsky Act, allowing Congress to impose sanctions on individual corrupt Russian officials and human rights abusers.

Earlier this year the US embassy changed the procedure for issuing visas for Russians that provoked the highest visa refusal rate for Russians wanted to visit the US for the past 10 years – 11,6%.

Another counter sanction that has been discussed frequently in recent weeks is related to foreign media. The Russian Federation Council has approved amendments to a bill that demands several well-known media channels to officially register as foreign agents. Andrey Klishas, the chairman of the Federal Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building stated that the law would not be applied against Russian media. In the case that foreign media refuse to register, their IP addresses will be blocked.

In his speech Klishas also stated that restrictions would apply to those foreign NGOs that pose a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional order and the security of the state.

Klishas also claimed that, on request from the General’s Prosecutors Office, access to the material distributed on the Internet by foreign NGOs could be restricted if their activity is considered as ‘undesirable’ in accordance with the law on “violations of human rights and freedoms, and the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens”.

Before its implementation, the law was criticized by the Human Rights Council and by Luydmila Narusova, member of the Federation Council and mother of Ksenya Sobchak, who recently announced her candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections. Narusova said that the law contained “inconsistencies” and added that “as a consequence, it can be applied indiscriminately, since there are no criteria.”

The “foreign agent” law is not just a counter sanction to the US but also yet another attempt to shut down independent media channels before the upcoming presidential elections, sending a signal to NGOs that are already on the list such as “Open Russia”. Duma deputy Sergey Gavrilov claimed that Russia has to be prepared for a second wave of counter actions in case the US will decide to toughen its stance against Russian media in America.  This game of back-and-forth is only set to continue for the foreseeable future.

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