- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
Medvedev widens powers of KGB successor agency
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia has broadened the authority of the Federal Security Service, the KGB's main successor agency, giving it Soviet-style repressive powers in a move critics say could be used to stifle protests and intimidate government opponents.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law Thursday allowing the agency, known by its initials FSB, to issue warnings or detain people suspected of preparing to commit crimes against Russia's security — which could include participating in anti-government rallies. Perpetrators face fines or up to 15 days detention.
Like many past restrictions, the law was described as part of an effort to combat extremism. The bill, submitted to Russian lawmakers in April, followed twin subway bombings in Moscow that killed 40 people and reflected the Kremlin's dissatisfaction with critical media coverage of its anti-terrorism efforts.
A senior lawmaker said the law protects people from abuse by law-enforcement officers.
"Officers of law-enforcement agencies have long talked about the necessity of switching from investigating crimes to their prevention," Mikhail Margelov, the Kremlin-connected head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, said in a statement. "The amendments do not turn FSB into a new edition of once-almighty KGB but protect Russian citizens from outrages by men in uniform."
Some of the law's articles, including ones that toughen control over media for "extremist statements" and allow FSB to publish warnings in the press, were removed or toned down following severe criticism from opposition and even Kremlin loyalists.
However, a lawmaker with the Communist party that remains the largest opposition force in Russia's rubber-stamp parliament, said the amendments did not change the law's repressive character.
"Despite all the promises to correct the most odious articles, by the second reading nothing has been changed in the text," Viktor Ilykhin told the Associated Press.
A Kremlin loyalist from a nationalist party praised the law for its "preventative measures."
"This is not a repressive law," Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic party, told Gazeta.ru online daily. "We're only talking about preventive measures."
Kremlin critics say, however, that the new measures could be used to violate the rights of opposition, and its obscure wording would leave the legislation open to interpretation.
"It's an ugly law with obscure formulas," independent political analyst Yulia Latynina told AP. "In case a drunken FSB officer is shooting at you, and there have been many such cases, you might end up getting jailed for 15 days for merely trying to escape."
The opposition has accused the Kremlin of turning Russia into a Soviet-style police state, and many Russians say they have experienced or fear abuse at the hands of FSB officers. Government critics say corruption among the FSB and other agencies stifles business activity and stunts the economy.
Some rights activists say the law simply legalizes practices FSB officers have been using for years.
"I don't think it adds anything to what FSB has been doing without any laws," former Soviet dissident and head of the Moscow Helsinki group Lyudmila Alexeyeva told AP. "But it's very sad when a law approves the outrage of such a dangerous service as FSB."
The legislation continues a trend under former President Vladimir Putin, blamed by the opposition and the West for rolling back Russia's democratic reforms of the 1990s. The former KGB officer and FSB head allowed the security services to regain power and influence at the expense of Russia's democratic institutions.
Mr. Putin is now prime minister, and many see his intolerance of dissent as influencing Mr. Medvedev, his hand-picked successor.
The bill has raised doubts about Mr. Medvedev's commitment to promoting full-fledged democracy and freedom of expression. Mr. Medvedev often has spoken of instituting judicial and police reforms, and has taken a less hard line on many issues than Mr. Putin.
Mr. Medvedev, who initiated the bill, angrily retorted to criticism. He said earlier this month that "each country has the right to perfect its legislation."
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- CURL: The modern GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- U.S. deploys 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland as exercise in response to Ukraine situation
- High schooler suing parents for money shot down by judge
- Six Senate seats could hinge on Keystone pipeline
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again