Russia enacted its new treason law yesterday, alarming opponents of president Vladimir Putin, who fear he will use it to silence critics and – in a reminder of the Soviet past – put at risk almost anyone who associates with foreigners.
The law broadens the definition of treason to allow Russians representing international organisations to face the charge, as well as citizens working for foreign states and bodies.
Mr Putin signed the legislation which took effect yesterday, even though he had promised to review it.
Political opponents and rights activists say the law is the latest in a series intended to crack down on the opposition and reduce foreign influence, since Mr Putin returned to the Kremlin in May.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, 85, a former Soviet dissident, drew comparisons with the darkest days under dictator Josef Stalin.
“It’s an attempt to return to the Stalin era, when any conversation with a foreigner was seen as a potential threat,” she said.