Moscow, July 18 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The upper chamber of the Russian parliament Wednesday approved bills branding many NGOs taking foreign funds as "foreign agents", criminalising defamation of character, and creating an internet blacklist.
The bill on NGOs requires all politically active non-governmental groups who receive foreign funding to publicly label themselves "foreign agents". Failure to comply can result in jail terms of up to four years for NGO employees.
The Russian Federation Council also approved a visa deal with the US and ratified child adoption treaties with France and the US, and Russia's ascension to the World Trade Organisation.
Defamation, decriminalised by then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011, is now set to be punishable with fines of up to 5 million rubles ($150,000). But no jail terms.
The government is also poised to obtain the right to create a blacklist of websites that can be banned over their content. Only websites promoting illegal drugs, child abuse or suicide will be eligible for extrajudicial bans.
All the bills will have to be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin for which no date was fixed Wednesday.
The three controversial bills were criticised by many rights activists, who insisted they were aimed to pressure the political opposition.
The ruling United Russia party, which fast-tracked the bills through the parliament's lower chamber, the State Duma, denied any political motivation to the laws.