Updated Apr 18, 2023, 10:48am EDT

Russia toughens laws to silence critics

Russian State Duma/Handout

Sign up for Semafor Principals: What the White House is reading. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

Lawmakers in Moscow toughened legislation for criminal charges used to crack down on critics, in what appears to be a response to the International Criminal Court issuing an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin.

Title icon

Know More

On Tuesday, the Duma, the lower house of the country’s parliament, passed a bill that would punish those who assist foreign organizations that Russia’s not part of in “executing” decisions.

The Duma also passed a bill that would allow for a possible life sentence for high treason.

The move comes a day after journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, one of Putin’s most vocal critics, was found guilty of treason and handed a 25-year prison sentence for speaking out against Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

According to the BBC, the sentence is the longest a Putin critic has received since the start of the conflict.

Title icon

Step Back

The amendments in Russia's legislation are also taking place against the backdrop of another high-profile arrest.

U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was charged with spying during a reporting trip in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, is currently in pre-trial detention in Moscow. His appeal for bail was rejected on Tuesday.

If convicted of espionage under the former legislation, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.