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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Seeks To Clarify What Is Espionage

The Federal Security Service has drafted amendments to the Criminal Code clarifying the definition of espionage.

While the bill's supporters say it would help prevent citizens from facing groundless espionage charges, critics warn that if it becomes law, the bill could make it easier for the FSB to prosecute scientists and researchers, many of whom have already been caught up in spy scandals.

The draft bill, which makes a distinction between deliberate espionage and disclosure of state secrets without intent to commit high treason, will be completed by Saturday, said Pavel Astakhov, a lawyer and member of the FSB's Public Council, Vedomosti reported Monday.

An FSB spokesman said Monday that he could not provide a copy of the bill to The Moscow Times.

But Vasily Titov, head of the FSB's Public Council, said in a statement released last week that the bill would help "exclude even the slightest possibility of baseless criminal prosecution of a citizen on espionage charges."

The council is a 15-member body created last year in order to improve feedback between the agency and the public.

But while the amendments may result in fewer groundless espionage cases, they could bring about more cases of scientists and researchers charged with divulging state secrets, said Pavel Chikov, head of the human rights group AGORA.

The FSB in recent years has accused numerous scientists of disclosing state secrets. But the agency has had difficulties proving in court that the defendants acted with intent to harm national security or that they had passed sensitive information to a foreign entity.

"If the amendments are passed, the FSB will easily prosecute for any disclosure of secret information," Chikov said.

Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB officer and deputy head of the State Duma's Security Committee, said Monday that the bill had a good chance of being passed in the Duma. To become law, the bill would have to clear three readings in the Duma, be approved by the Federation Council, and then signed by the president.

But defining exactly what constitutes a state secret is a more pressing issue than prosecuting those who divulge such information, Gudkov said.

Lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, who received political asylum in the United States earlier this year, was charged last month in absentia with divulging state secrets after he photographed an FSB affidavit from his client's case materials.

The photograph was needed for his client's defense, Kuznetsov argued.