Russian parliament backs security overhaul after plane bombing
Russia’s parliament backed a sweeping overhaul of national security, including possibly expanding the powers of the country’s intelligence services, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb downed a Russian passenger plane over Egypt last month.
In a rare meeting of both chambers of parliament on Friday, deputies, senators adopted a resolution calling for tougher penalties for terrorists, stricter public security measures and new action to combat extremism.
“You can’t have too much security and any system needs perfecting,” said Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and the head of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. “Such work is going on at full pace.”
Putin on Tuesday vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up an Airbus A321 packed with Russian tourists over Egypt on Oct. 31. All 224 people on board were killed.
The Kremlin has also cited the Paris attacks, in which at least 129 people were killed, as another reason why Russia and the world need to get tougher on ISIS.
Matviyenko said security measures at airports, on public transport and in places where large events are held, had already been beefed up, on Putin’s orders, in the past week.
But she and others said more needed to be done. Among the suggestions: Reinstating the death penalty for terrorists and setting up an international Nuremberg-style tribunal to try 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,” said Matviyenko.
Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the lower house of parliament, said lawmakers now needed to analyze the legal base underpinning national security to better protect people and strategic sites.
Russia has intensified its air strikes against militants in Syria in response to the Egypt plane bombing, but lawmakers say they want to ensure Putin knows he has their full support if he decides to go further.
Most Russians approve of Putin’s actions in Syria and his personal popularity is at a record high of almost 90 percent, opinion polls show.
But his handling of the Egypt plane crash appears to have drawn a more mixed reaction with one survey, conducted by the independent Levada pollster, showing that 73 percent of Russians thought he should have addressed the nation personally afterwards to offer his condolences.
Sergei Mironov, the leader of the Just Russia party, said on Friday 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.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Mironov’s idea was a new one but that the issue was complex, while Sergei Ivanov, 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 Matviyenko.
“Measures must be taken to ensure nobody has the right to act like that in the world using such methods.”