April 26, 2023

The Risk of Treason


The Risk of Treason
Moscow OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Unit) Vitaly V. Kuzmin, Wikimedia Commons

The State Duma of the Russian Federation has approved Criminal Code amendments that introduce life imprisonment for treason. After the amendments are approved by the Federation Council and President Vladimir Putin, they will come into force.

At present, the maximum sentence for treason is 20 years in prison.

According to current law, treason is not just espionage on behalf of a foreign state, but also for "the provision of financial, logistical, consulting or other assistance to a foreign state, international or foreign organization, or their representatives in activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation."

The vague phrasing of the law has led to a broad interpretation of treason. For example, in 2014, radio engineer Gennady Kravtsov, who used to work in the GRU, was sentenced to 14 years in prison just for sending his resume to foreign companies.

The Criminal Code article on treason is quite often used in Russia. According to the human rights initiative "Team 29," between 1997 and 2017 about a hundred people were convicted of treason and espionage. Only one such case ended in acquittal.

The highest-profile cases of recent years have been the sentence of 24 years handed down to journalist Ivan Safronov, who did not have access to state secrets; and laset week politician and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza received a 25-year sentence.

Since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the law has been employed more frequently. Journalists report that, across Russia, people are being sent to pre-trial detention facilities on suspicion of treason.

According to Novaya Gazeta Europe, most often people are accused with the crime after making donations to the army of Ukraine or to Ukrainian foundations, for correspondence with foreigners, journalistic activities, and for plans to join the army of Ukraine. At the same time, even a pair of camouflage pants and an antiwar position can serve as evidence of such a plan.

Lawyer Andrey Pavlov, a specialist in treason cases, said he believes that tougher penalties are necessary in order to facilitate the work of Russian security forces. "The increase in terms raises the stakes in the practice of intimidating suspects. They will be offered to make a pre-trial agreement, inform on someone, and in exchange they will be promised that a life sentence will not be sought," the lawyer says.

This is not the first time since the start of Russia's War on Ukraine that Russia has tightened penalties for "crimes against the state." In particular, in December a package of "anti-sabotage" amendments were added to the criminal code. Three new articles appeared: 281.1 ("Aiding sabotage"), 281.2 ("Training for the purposes of sabotage"), and 281.3 ("Organizing or taking part in a sabotage organization").

You Might Also Like

AI Will Watch You
  • February 13, 2023

AI Will Watch You

Russian authorities plan to use artificial intelligence to scour the interwebs for undesirable political information.
Screws are Tightening
  • April 12, 2023

Screws are Tightening

March has seen a serious tightening of the screws of repression by the Russian regime.
Dangerous Dreams
  • December 23, 2022

Dangerous Dreams

Russians are being fined for their dreams, "likes," and "silent support."
Anti-LGBTQ Law Has Broad Ripples
  • December 11, 2022

Anti-LGBTQ Law Has Broad Ripples

President Vladimir Putin signed a law against LGBTQ "propaganda." Is this only a homophobic act? Or is it part of something bigger?
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Steppe / Степь

Steppe / Степь

This is the work that made Chekhov, launching his career as a writer and playwright of national and international renown. Retranslated and updated, this new bilingual edition is a super way to improve your Russian.
White Magic

White Magic

The thirteen tales in this volume – all written by Russian émigrés, writers who fled their native country in the early twentieth century – contain a fair dose of magic and mysticism, of terror and the supernatural. There are Petersburg revenants, grief-stricken avengers, Lithuanian vampires, flying skeletons, murders and duels, and even a ghostly Edgar Allen Poe.
Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas

This exciting new trilogy by a Russian author – who has been compared to Orhan Pamuk and Umberto Eco – vividly recreates a lost world, yet its passions and characters are entirely relevant to the present day. Full of mystery, memorable characters, and non-stop adventure, The Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas is a must read for lovers of historical fiction and international thrillers.  
A Taste of Chekhov

A Taste of Chekhov

This compact volume is an introduction to the works of Chekhov the master storyteller, via nine stories spanning the last twenty years of his life.
Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Fearful Majesty

Fearful Majesty

This acclaimed biography of one of Russia’s most important and tyrannical rulers is not only a rich, readable biography, it is also surprisingly timely, revealing how many of the issues Russia faces today have their roots in Ivan’s reign.
22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
Murder and the Muse

Murder and the Muse

KGB Chief Andropov has tapped Matyushkin to solve a brazen jewel heist from Picasso’s wife at the posh Metropole Hotel. But when the case bleeds over into murder, machinations, and international intrigue, not everyone is eager to see where the clues might lead.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955