Russia signs law to expand KGB-style power

Rights groups say the bill would essentially put KGB successor above the law.

Moscow: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday signed into a law a bill expanding the powers of the successor to the Soviet-era KGB security service, the Kremlin said in a statement.

The bill, criticised by rights groups, would allow the Federal Security Service (FSB) to issue official warnings to individuals whose actions are deemed to be creating the conditions for crime.

Rights groups say the bill would essentially put the special service above the law and harks back to Soviet times when the much-feared FSB predecessor KGB used warnings to persecute dissidents.

The bill had already sailed through the lower and upper houses of Parliament.

The opposition says the FSB security service is already extremely powerful and empowering it further would contravene Medvedev`s pledge to liberalise Russia.

In response to protests from human rights activists, lawmakers earlier removed an amendment allowing the FSB to summon people to their offices to hand out the warnings and also publish their warnings in the media.

Medvedev earlier this month launched a staunch defence of the law, saying its aim was to improve Russian legislation and had been drawn up on his personal orders.

"Every country has a right to fine-tune its legislation, including in respect to special services," he said. "And what is happening today -- I would like you to know that -- has been done on my direct instructions."

Under the 2000-2008 presidency of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin, the FSB dramatically increased its influence over Russian society.

Human rights activists had hoped his successor Medvedev, a lawyer by training without a KGB past, would put the special services in check.

But Medvedev`s critics say the Kremlin chief has promoted only cosmetic reforms and Russians have not become freer under his rule.

Bureau Report


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