Russia extends crackdown on ‘foreign agents’ to military, aerospace sectors

Russia’s main domestic spy agency has listed dozens of types of information that Russians who release them abroad can be branded as “foreign agents,” a move critics say poses risks to journalists covering the military or space.

Russia last year expanded its legislation against “foreign agents” so that people can be identified if they intentionally collect military or military-technical information that is seen as being used in the interest of a foreign government or organization.

The Federal Security Service published a list of 60 unclassified topics on a government website late Thursday, many of which were military-related, that could be used by foreign governments against Russian security.

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The list includes topics such as military procurement, the morale of the troops, the whereabouts of soldiers, the number of troops, their personal details, and issues that hinder the development of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Both Russians and non-Russians can be classified as foreign agents under the law.

Designated individuals can be fined and even jailed for up to five years if they fail to meet the requirements, such as submitting documents to be formally added to the Russian State Register of Foreign Agents.

Russia has labeled several media outlets and dozens of journalists as “foreign agents” in recent months. It’s a Cold War-era connotation that requires outlets to prominently state in all their content that they are “foreign agents,” which reduces their ad revenue.

Russia says the legislation is needed to protect against foreign interference and designated journalists and outlets can still operate.

Ivan Pavlov, a human rights lawyer who left Russia last month, said the categories were broad and would make it risky for journalists covering the military and the Russian space company.

“…It creates a huge risk for journalists who specialize in this topic. Because the list essentially criminalizes gathering information about the activities of Roscosmos and soldiers,” he said.

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