Article 275 (“High treason”) appeared in the first Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on January 1, 1997. She became the heiress of Article 64 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR (“Treason to the Motherland”).
The last time parliamentarians changed and expanded Article 275 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (high treason) was in 2012. Then, along with espionage and the transfer of state secrets abroad, they also began to consider 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 Russia.
Under the USSR, under Article 64 of the Criminal Code "Treason to the Motherland", which came into force in 1960, mainly accomplices of fascists and collaborators were tried. So, on August 11, 1979, according to the verdict of the Soviet court, the executioner Antonina Makarova was shot. She became one of three women executed in the USSR in the post-Stalin era. The collaborator, who went over to the side of the Nazis, shot Soviet partisans during the Great Patriotic War. According to the same article, Vasily Meleshko was shot in the year 75, who during the war years, having been captured, went over to the side of the Nazis and subsequently participated in the execution of civilians in Khatyn.
In Russia, 25 people were convicted under Article 275 “Treason” over the five years from 2009 to 2013, and 43 people from 2014 to 2018. The peak of "landings" occurred in 2014-2016 - the period of the previous conflict with Ukraine. Strange as it may seem, less than half of the hundreds of military and special services convicted under the article on high treason for 20 years. Cases of such defendants most often remain not public. The most famous case in recent years is the case of former employees of the FSB Information Security Center Sergey Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchaev, former employee of Kaspersky Lab Ruslan Stoyanov and businessman Georgy Fomchenkov. All of them were detained in January 2017, and in the spring of 2019 they were sentenced to terms from 6 to 22 years in a colony. The investigation considered that the FSB officers had passed secret data to the FBI, revealing the methods of work of the Russian special services.
Scientists account for about a fifth of treason cases: 17 out of 89 over the past 20 years. Most often, the reason is an unsuccessful attempt at international cooperation. So, an employee of the head institute of Roscosmos TsNIIMash Viktor Kudryavtsev , who oversaw a joint project with the Belgian Institute of Hydrodynamics from his institute, was accused of transferring secret data about the hypersonic systems of the Kinzhal and Avangard complexes. The scientist published the results of joint research in the open press in the Russian Federation and abroad.
Cases of treason and espionage against journalists are generally rare. There were only two journalists who were tried under Article 275 (“Treason”). In the early 2000s, Grigory Pasko , a correspondent for the Pacific Fleet newspaper Combat Watch, was accused of treason for passing secrets to the Japanese. The second journalist who was tried under this article was the former correspondent of Kommersant and Vedomosti, ex-adviser to the head of the State Space Agency Ivan Safronov.
Now the bill further expands the definition of treason. It will also mean "passing over to the side of the enemy in conditions of armed conflict, hostilities or other actions with the use of weapons and military equipment in which Russia participates."
For going over to the side of the enemy, imprisonment for up to 20 years with a fine of up to 500 thousand rubles is offered. The bill also proposes sent to prison for up to eight years with a fine of up to one million rubles for "confidential cooperation" with foreign intelligence services or with an international or foreign organization. We are talking, in particular, about cooperation with organizations "acting in the interests of the special services of a foreign state, as well as international or foreign private military or intelligence companies."
As the State Duma Security Committee explained to NI, the new bill expands the concept of espionage, which now, in the new version, will include the collection and transfer of not only state secrets, but also other data that allow them to be used against the Russian army and state authorities Russian Federation, if cooperation takes place in the context of an armed conflict and hostilities in which Russia is also involved.
Separate provisions will deal with criminal penalties for public calls for activities directed against the security of Russia, as well as for obstructing the authorities from exercising their powers to ensure the security of Russia. This will be punishable by imprisonment for a maximum term of up to 7 years with a fine of 2.5 million rubles. In addition, the bill proposes to persecute foreign NGOs declared undesirable in Russia even if they operate from abroad.
Also, the new bill, according to its authors, proposes to increase the punishment for acts under Art. 359 of the Criminal Code (Mercenary) in the form of imprisonment for up to 15 years.
The bill has already generated controversy. Some hastened to compare it with military legislation or the norms of the 37th year.
“Actually, the draft law only consolidated the actually existing situation. We live in a changed environment, and this required changes in the norms of the law. There is nothing cruel in these norms, everything is the same, for example, in Ukrainian legislation. It is time to put things in order and, in cooperation with foreign companies, to ban insider information. Of course, we are not talking about the transfer of the menu and the price tag of the dining room in the State Duma, we are talking about information that may constitute a military or state secret. Yes, I agree that many of the wording in the bill is rather vague, but by the 2nd and 3rd readings, I hope, clarity will be introduced, ”reserved FSB Major General Alexander Mikhailov told NI.
Many people have a question whether they will consider oligarchs and citizens who invest their money in foreign real estate or place funds in banks as enemies of the Motherland and spies.
“We have an unofficial concept of “our” and “alien”. And the elite have a different attitude towards “us” and “them”. When the caste of "untouchables" disappears, it will be possible to speak of objectivity. In my opinion, it is necessary to tighten the responsibility for the withdrawal of funds from the country. The time of strengthening sanctions dictates the need to toughen responsibility for this. Today it is important,” said Mansur Yusupov, Chairman of the Board of the National Committee of Public Control, Candidate of Law, Major General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, retired.
“The bill has in mind the punishment for deposits in foreign funds. Here, for example, Maxim Galkin transferred millions to the fund for helping Ukrainian refugees. It seems to be a humanitarian mission, but we are in a state of conflict with Ukraine. So the act is controversial from the point of view of the new version of the bill. In general, this bill aims to stop contributions to foreign funds, which are primarily intended to support foreign equipment, weapons, and rightly so, ”said Major General of the Reserve FSB Alexander Mikhailov.
The draft law is quite rigid in its wording - so much so that many people have parallels with the 1937 year. In fact, the wording about “going over to the side of the enemy” was used in the Criminal Code of the RSFSR of 1960 in the article “Treason to the Motherland”. And before that, such a wording appeared in the decision of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR of June 8, 1934. Treason to the motherland was considered the most serious crime, for which punishment was due up to execution. It was also considered treason to flee abroad or refuse to return from abroad to the USSR.
“Under the USSR, in the 37th there were“ troikas ”, military field courts. Now everything is different, there are several judicial instances, there are lawyers, there is a legal field, ”explains FSB Major General Alexander Mikhailov.
“You should not compare the current situation with the 37th year. Then there were other threats, and the state used extreme measures. Now the circumstances are different, we live in a different world,” said Mansur Yusupov, candidate of legal sciences, retired Major General of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Still, there are many questions about the bill. For example, how to protect yourself from accusations of espionage when cooperating with foreigners. As explained by the speaker on the bill, a member of the State Duma Committee on Security Ernest Valeev , in order to avoid this, it is necessary to conclude an official contract with foreigners and not provide them with "assistance in activities known to be directed against the security of the Russian Federation."
During the debate on the bill, some deputies expressed their complaints about the vague and vague wording. For example, New People MP Ksenia Goryacheva asked the question: “Can you give an example of the difference between expressing your opinion on the actions of the state and actions against the security of Russia?” Answering her, a member of the State Duma Security Committee, Ernest Valeev , said that "this opinion should not be expressed in calls not to comply with the decisions of the authorities to ensure security."
The question arose as to whether prisoners of war would be considered traitors to their homeland. Indeed, in the Criminal Code of the RSFSR there was article 64 "Treason to the Motherland", which spelled out "going over to the side of the enemy." To this, the Security Committee told us that prisoners of war would definitely not be recognized as defectors and traitors to the motherland if this bill was passed.
Probably, by the 2nd reading the draft law will be significantly improved. Experts did not rule out its tightening if the international situation changes.