Russian lawmakers to make public income and assets reports

Russian lawmakers to make public income and assets reports

Russia's lower house of parliament voted in favor of a bill that will remove the requirement for lawmakers to make public their annual income and assets reports, in a move that will decrease transparency.

After 1 March, publicly available information about Russian lawmakers income declarations will not allow for identification of them, according to a statement on the website of the State Duma.

A summary will be released based on the information that lawmakers will have to submit their declarations to the tax authorities every year.

One lawmaker, Pavel Krasheninnikov, was quoted as saying on the Duma website that this is about the protection of personal data.

The bill was approved on Wednesday in its third and final readings. It must still be approved by the Federation Council, Russia's upper house, and signed into law by the president, Vladimir Putin, usually a formality.

Political scientist Alexei Makarkin told the Kommersant newspaper on Monday that we are returning to the Soviet model of fighting corruption.

In December of this year, Putin issued a decree waiving the requirement for officials to declare income and assets for the duration of Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

Transparency International ranked Russia 136 out of 180 in its corruption perceptions index for 2021.

On the same day, a Moscow court ordered the closing of Russia's oldest human rights organisation, the Moscow Helsinki Group, silencing another respected institution.

The justice ministry requested a dissolution of the rights group, according to a statement from the Moscow city court. The Moscow Helsinki Group said it would appeal against the decision. It was the latest in a series of legal rulings against organisations critical of the Kremlin, a trend that intensified after Putin sent troops into Ukraine last year.

The Moscow Helsinki Group was formed in 1976 when Russia was part of the Soviet Union and was considered Russia's oldest rights group. It was headed by Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who became a symbol of resistance in Russia and died in 2018.

Putin visited her at home on her 90th birthday when Alexeyeva the doyenne of Russia's rights movement celebrated her 90th birthday. I am grateful to you for everything that you have done for a huge number of people in our country for many years, Putin told her at the time.

The justice ministry accused the rights group of breaching its legal status by observing trials outside the Moscow region.

Before Putin sent troops to Ukraine, Russia dissolved another pillar of the country's rights movement, Memorial. That group emerged as a symbol of hope during Russia's chaotic transition to democracy in the early 1990s and was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize less than a year after it was ordered to shut down.

The Russian government has been using a number of laws to stifle critics, for example imposing prison terms of up to 15 years for spreading false information about the military.

Most of the top opposition figures are either in prison or exiled.