Russia's Parliament backs security boost

In a rare meeting of both chambers of Russia's Parliament yesterday, deputies and senators adopted a resolution calling for tougher action against terrorists, among other security measures.
In a rare meeting of both chambers of Russia's Parliament yesterday, deputies and senators adopted a resolution calling for tougher action against terrorists, among other security measures.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Measures include tougher penalties for terrorists, new action against extremism

MOSCOW • Russia's Parliament yesterday backed a sweeping overhaul of national security, including possibly expanding the powers of the intelligence services, after the Kremlin concluded that a bomb downed a Russian passenger plane over Egypt last month.

In a rare meeting of both chambers of Parliament, deputies and senators adopted a resolution calling for tougher penalties for terrorists, stricter public security steps and new action to fight extremism. "You can't have too much security and any system needs perfecting," said Ms Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and the head of the Federation Council, the Upper House.

The Kremlin also cited last week's Paris attacks, in which at least 130 people were killed, as another reason to be tougher on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Ms Matviyenko said security at airports, on public transport and in places where large events are held had already been beefed up, on Mr Putin's orders, in the past week. But more needed to be done.

The suggestions included reinstating the death penalty for terrorists and setting up an international Nuremberg-style tribunal to try Islamist militants.

"There are proposals to widen the powers of the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies and to toughen criminal responsibility not only for terrorist activity, but for anyone who supports it morally, financially or with information," Ms Matviyenko said at the televised hearing. But "we should not slip into a state of emergency, into limiting the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens", she added.

Mr Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the Lower House of Parliament, said lawmakers needed to analyse the legal base underpinning national security to better protect people and strategic sites.

Russia has intensified its air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria in response to the Egypt plane bombing, but lawmakers say they want to ensure Mr Putin knows he has their full support if he decides to go further. Most Russians approve of Mr Putin's actions in Syria and his personal popularity is at a record high of almost 90 per cent, opinion polls show.

Mr Sergei Mironov, the leader of the Just Russia party, said it was "essential" in the wake of the plane bombing for Russia to bring back the death penalty, currently subject to a moratorium, for terrorists and their accomplices.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Mironov's idea was a new one, but that the issue was complex, while Mr Sergei Ivanov, Mr Putin's chief-of-staff, said Russians would back such a proposal but that it was "premature" to reinstate capital punishment.

Many of the speakers blamed the West for the rise of ISIS and for hindering the fight against it by refusing to team up with Russia.

"The West blew up the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, and sowed chaos, bloodshed and a humanitarian catastrophe," said Ms Matviyenko. "Measures must be taken to ensure nobody has the right to act like that in the world using such methods."

Separately, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said the Kremlin believes the forthcoming visit of French President Francois Hollande to Washington and Moscow is a step towards the creation of an anti-terrorist coalition. Mr Putin will meet Mr Hollande on Nov 26 to discuss the anti-terrorism effort and Syrian crisis, Mr Ushakov said.

"Before Moscow, (Mr Hollande) will visit Washington and we consider it as a creation of the widest anti-terrorist coalition," he said, adding that Mr Putin and Mr Hollande would meet again during a conference in Paris on Nov 30.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Russia's Parliament backs security boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe