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Putin wants prison for registration offenders

Russia Map Registration rules could get tighter and punishments for those who cut corners could get much harsher, with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recommending jail for offenders.

He announced his tough-talking proposals at a State Council meeting on Monday, when president Dmitry Medvedev suddenly switched the agenda from family support to xenophobia.

Russia is not ready for liberalism

Russia is not yet ready to be liberal about freedom of movement and should put those who break the rules in prison, said Putin.

"It seems that we moved to liberal reforms a bit too early," he said, adding that "previously we used to have an article 196, if I am correct, for violating the passport regime," Vedomosti reported.

Medvedev echoed that the authorities must "control the movement" of the population.

A source in the presidential administration sees the presidential support as a sign that we should indeed expect changes will come to pass, Vedomosti reported.

Anti-constitutional proposition?

Experts, however, doubt the legality of the proposals. "What else could you expect from a former KGB Lt.-Colonel?" Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of Panorama Think-tank, asked The Moscow News.

"The whole practice of registration is anti-constitutional, and they are proposing criminal responsibility for practicing one's constitutional right ­ the right to freedom of movement," he said by telephone.

Lev Ponomarev, For Human Rights chief, thinks that Putin has declared war against human rights and Medvedev's policies. "Thanks Putin, he helps us, human rights activists, to support Medvedev's line," he told Gzt.ru. "His ideas are anti-constitutional ­ a citizen has the right to live in any city of the country. And we will apply to the guardian of the constitution (the president), so that he admonishes the prime-minister."

Xenophobia on the agenda

Putin has already warned that stricter rules were needed, when he spoke to football fans earlier this month.

Xenophobia became a hot topic after mass riots on Moscow's Manezhnaya Ploshchad on Dec. 11, when nationalists went on the rampage to protest against the release of suspects from Dagestan, held as part of an investigation into the murder of Yegor Sviridov, an ethnic-Russian Spartak fan.

No practical reason

Many experts see no practical purpose for tighter controls.

"What is the practical reason for this initiative?" lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky told Gzt.ru. "I don't know. Those who need it will sort out everything, and the law-abiding citizens will have one more problem. The issue will not be solved and the corruption rates will rise."

Leading fellow of Geography Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences Olga Vendina thinks that there is no need to tighten the migration politics, but that measures on fighting extremists should be increased instead.

Duma ready to act

Criminal responsibility should be introduced "at first for those who register," if they receive money for it, chairman of State Duma committee on legislation Pavel Krashennikov told Vedomosti. The housing code could also be amended, to take into consideration people who buy parts of a flat and register dozens of migrants there, he said.

There has, however, been no detailed examination of Putin's initiative yet, Peskov announced. Federal Migration Service (FMS) officials also said that they have not received any related orders, but their deputy director Mikhail Tyurkin thinks that Russia's migrant policy should be sorted out first of all.

Jury is ineffective

The PM also talked about problems with jury trials in Russia, calling them "ineffective," especially in some regions where they acquitt criminals based on ethnic or clan divisions. He did, however, say that they were appropriate when the death penalty could be handed down.

Putin's press-secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the PM was talking about taking away some processes from jury courts and handing them over to professional judges.


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