President Medvedev's bill to increase secret police powers has won parliament's approval. Human rights activists fear the government may use the law against the opposition, returning to a Soviet-style police state.
Parliament followed Medvedev's push for increased police power
The Russian upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, has approved a bill aimed at widening the powers of the secret police (FSB), successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
The new law would allow the FSB to call citizens in for "precautionary talks" in connection with potential crimes that agents believe may be committed in the future. Secret police would be allowed to take such measures without firm evidence.
Those who fail to attend such meetings could be slapped with fines of about $1,500 (1,160 euros) or 15 days of jail time.
Fighting terrorists - or intimidating the opposition?
Officially the measure is intended to help fight criminal acts by terrorists and extremists. Proponents of the new powers have said the law should prevent later criminal acts targeted "against the country's security."
Russia wants to nip terrorist attacks, like this one on an FSB building, in the bud
Critics, however, have said the new law could be used to intimidate government opponents and suppress protests - recalling Soviet-era authoritarian rule.
"The powers of the Federal Security Service have long ago exceeded all sensible bounds," said Russia's Memorial human rights group, which called the FSB "more than a special service."
"This is the decree of a police state," said Sergey Ivanenko of the Russian Union Democratic (Yabloko) Party, which does not have any seats in parliament. Three members of the Yabloko Party were arrested outside the Duma building, where they were handing out literature cautioning that the law constituted a "danger to society."
Following in Putin's footsteps
Liberal Democratic party leader Vladimir Zhironovsky defended the bill, saying it was "not a repressive law."
Yabloko party members were arrested - presumably for criticizing the measure
"No one is going to arrest or deprive anyone of freedom. We are only talking about one thing: preventive measures," he added.
The bill was passed by the lower house, the Duma, last week with the backing of the ruling United Russia party.
The proposals have now been sent to President Dmitry Medvedev, whose signature will turn them into law. Medvedev had already thrown his support behind the bill.
The FSB's powers had greatly increased under Medvedev's predecessor, current prime minister and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin. Human rights activists had hoped in vain that Medvedev would curb the role of Russia's special services.
Author: Darren Mara, David Levitz (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Susan Houlton
Russian President Putin has said that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Are his words just posturing in order to put the West under pressure, or could the situation really turn bloody in eastern Ukraine?
A German court has jailed a Somali pirate for 12 years over his role in the hijacking of a tanker in 2010. The man later tried to come to Germany as a refugee.
Former Latvian Economics Minister Krisjanis Karins approves of the move to increase NATO troops on the military alliance's eastern border. Baltic countries need to know they can rely on NATO, he tells Deutschlandfunk.
Hip-hop has morphed from a creation in New York’s subculture of underprivileged youth into a global movement. In Germany, it has a long tradition of addressing problems drawn from immigrant youth culture.