The Russian government has approved a bill to increase penalties for actions and statements against Russian citizens, according to several media reports citing government sources.
The measures are primarily aimed at combating discrimination and violations of the rights of Russian citizens abroad.
The planned amendments on “Russophobia” would criminalize discrimination against Russians and public incitement to extremism by international officials or public organizations, the state-run broadcaster RT reported.
The bill was authored by Irina Yarovaya, a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party, who previously proposed that Russophobia be defined by law as a “misanthropic ideology”.
According to an explanatory note, amendments are also needed to protect military graves, monuments and other memorials from attempts to damage or destroy them. In recent years, monuments honoring Soviet troops for their role in defeating Nazi Germany during World War II have been demolished or are slated for demolition in parts of Eastern and Central Europe.
In February, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow published a list of what it called anti-Russian statements by Western officials, claiming that the comments showed an unprecedented level of anti-Russian sentiment.
Disloyal Russians ‘isolated’
The dossier included comments by leaders of the Baltic countries, some of whom had made efforts to eliminate the Russian language from social and economic life even before the war in Ukraine.
In Latvia, the situation worsened in 2022, when the then president, Egils Levits, insisted that Russians not loyal to the government in Riga should be “isolated from society”.
Moscow has repeatedly accused Latvia of “systemic discrimination” and failing to meet its international obligations. In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that “[Russophobia] has practically become the official ideology of the Western ruling elites”.
According to Vladimir Putin, the West aims to “dismember and plunder Russia’s vast resources” and he is clear that “any interference from outside, provocations aimed at causing inter-ethnic or inter-religious conflicts, will be viewed as aggressive acts against Russia”.