Russia's parliament calls for stepped-up fight against terrorism
Russian lawmakers on Friday called for tighter security measures and tougher punishments for terror attacks after the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt and the carnage in Paris.
Legislators from Russia's two chambers held an extraordinary meeting on the issue after Moscow said for the first time this week that the Airbus plane that crashed in Sinai killing 224 people last month was brought down by a bomb.
The gathering in Moscow -- that included religious leaders -- was designed as a show of support for President Vladimir Putin by the Kremlin-loyal deputies after he ratcheted up air strikes in Syria in the wake of the confirmation of the bombing.
Valentina Matvienko, the chairwoman of the upper chamber Federation Council, said lawmakers were "proposing to expand the powers" of Russia's security and law enforcement agencies and "increase criminal responsibility not only for terrorist activity, but for its moral, financial, informational and other support".
Matvienko also called on Russia and its "partners" to create an international tribunal to "severely punish terrorists and their accomplices", while saying the West's "gross interference" had bred chaos in the Middle East.
Moscow has not explicitly blamed any one group for the attack on its passenger jet but Putin has pledged to find and "punish" the attackers, while the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.
Russia is currently conducting a bombing campaign in Syria at the request of its long-standing ally President Bashar al-Assad, while a US-led coalition is carrying out separate strikes against IS.
Moscow has been pushing for the creation of a broad coalition against the Islamic State jihadist group, which would include Russia, the West and some Middle Eastern states.
Both Russia and France have stepped up their bombing campaigns in war-torn Syria in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, with the Russian air force saying this week it was targeting oil infrastructure belonging to IS.
State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin berated the West for maintaining sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine, saying they inhibited international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
"On the backdrop of today's terrible tragedies, this not only looks absurd but frankly ridiculous and stupid," Naryshkin said of Western sanctions against Russia. "This speaks to problems of morals of conscience among the political elites of certain Western countries."
© 2015 AFP