Russia to require foreigners to sign ‘loyalty agreement’

Visitors would be required to respect Russian values and laws that ensure the country’s national interest.

The draft legislation would force all foreigners to sign the pledge which would, in effect, control what they can say and do while in Russia [Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

Russia is reported to be preparing to introduce laws that would require foreign visitors to sign a “loyalty agreement”.

The interior ministry is preparing the legislation that would bar visitors from criticising Russian policy or discrediting Soviet history. It would also require that they respect traditional Russian family values, culture and environment, state news agency TASS reported on Wednesday.

All foreigners would have to sign the pledge, which would, in effect, control what they can say and do while in Russia.

This means visitors would be prohibited from “interfering with the activities of public authorities of the Russian Federation, discrediting in any form the foreign and domestic state policy of the Russian Federation, public authorities and their officials,” the report said.

For the draft to become law, the document has to be introduced to the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, and to go through committee review and several readings before being submitted to President Vladimir Putin for signing.

Officials told state news agency Interfax that the legislation is being worked on by the interior ministry, the government, and the presidential administration and is well advanced.

Lieutenant General Valentina Kazakova, head of the ministry’s Main Directorate for Migration, told TASS, “The bill is currently under discussion and will be submitted to the State Duma shortly.”

Silent history

In particular, foreigners would be barred from “distorting the historical truth about the feat of the Soviet people in the defence of the Fatherland and its contribution to the victory over fascism,” the draft bill reads, according to TASS.

The triumph over Nazism, under the Soviet leadership of Joseph Stalin, has been constantly compared with Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Putin has utilised this historical moment as an effective tool in his resurgent war on the West and the liberal values mostly associated with it.

Even critics and scholars within Russia, who document his totalitarian regime’s atrocities, have lost access to Kremlin-controlled media and are branded “foreign agents”.

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Putin has cast the war as part of an existential battle with the West, saying he will defend Russia’s “sacred” civilisation from what he portrays as the West’s decadence.

Traditional family

Under the law, foreigners would have to uphold and abide by “traditional family values”, the “institution of marriage” and “traditional sexual relations”, according to TASS.

Russia under President Putin has touted itself as a country home to more conservative moral and family values, backed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

To this end, the authorities have cracked down on the LGBTQ community, passing legislation outlawing gender-affirming surgeries and banning “gay propaganda”.

Lawmakers, in recent months have also been working on legislation to limit access to reproductive care and abortions as a way of improving the “demographic situation” and countering the low birth rate.

Culture and environment

“The legislative initiative proposes prohibiting activities that encourage a neglectful attitude toward Russia’s environment or natural resources … Russia’s regional and ethno-cultural diversity [and] traditional Russian moral and spiritual values,” reported TASS.

Russia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world with nearly 200 ethnic groups residing on the territory of the Russian Federation, according to the United Nations.

Following the October Revolution in 1917, and the fall of Russia’s imperialist monarchy, Stalin embraced Russian nationalism based on the old imperial myth of the greatness of the Russian people, wrote Botakoz Kassymbekova.

Bolshevik Moscow made ethnic Russians the most privileged group in the Soviet Union and sent Russian settlers to populate and control non-Russian regions.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, minority groups have accused authorities of using them as fodder for the war.

Reports of men being rounded up highlighted the disproportionate impact the war has had on Russians from impoverished regions and ethnic minorities.

According to data collected by Russian independent media, a number of areas with high minority populations have suffered the most casualties in the war.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies