Russia Cracks Down on Treason:

A controversial law broadening the definition of high treason took effect in Russia on Wednesday even as

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman indicated it might be watered down if necessary.

On Tuesday, Putin signed into law the bill, which human rights activists say can be used against any

dissenter as it can target individuals deemed to have harmed Russian security by passing information to a

foreign organization.

The law has provoked an outcry from activists. They say the legislation is part of a broad crackdown

against the opposition in revenge for the unprecedented protests that erupted as Putin returned to the

Kremlin in May for a third presidential term.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the Kremlin would watch how the law was implemented

and did not rule out the legislation being amended.

“The president has indeed expressed readiness to look at this law very carefully,” Russian news agencies

quoted Peskov as saying.

Speaking to human rights campaigners earlier this week, Putin also indicated he was ready to consider

watering down the law.

“Let's revisit this, let's think,” he said. “I agree with you in that there should not be a loose

interpretation of what high treason is."

In addition to passing secret information to foreign governments, the new law makes it illegal to give

consultations or financial help to international organisations if they are engaged in “activities directed

against the security of Russia.”

Rights activists and lawyers have said that the broader definitions could criminalise sharing information

with international organisations such as Amnesty International or even appealing to the European Court of

Human Rights.

The bill follows the passing of laws that have branded rights groups with foreign funding as “foreign

agents”, criminalized slander and blacklisted websites unfavorable to the government.