Russian lawmakers vote to boost powers of KGB successor

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Russia's parliament on Friday backed a bill to boost the powers of the feared security service, allowing it to warn people of "inadmissible" activities in a bill criticized by human rights campaigners.

Under the bill, proposed by the government, the FSB security service that succeeded the KGB, would be able to issue warnings to people and organisations that their actions were "creating conditions for committing a crime".

Those who failed to comply with their warnings would face a fine or a 15-day detention.

The FSB is currently responsible for investigating people suspected of making public calls for extremism and the bill is apparently aimed at radical activists.

The authors of the bill say it responds to a growth in the "activities of radical organisations" and to "negative processes in society, especially among youths".

The bill, which comes in the wake of twin suicide bombings on the Moscow metro, was approved by a majority of 313 out of 450 deputies in the first of three readings needed before it becomes law.

The Communist party and the Liberal Democrats voted against, but the bill is virtually guaranteed to be passed by Russia's lower chamber, which is dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

Putin, a former KGB agent, headed the FSB prior to his first term as prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin.

Human rights activists criticised the bill, saying it could easily be abused.

"In our opinion, the bill has a great potential to broaden the practice of lawlessness and unjustified application of the law," the Sova Centre rights group said in a statement Friday.

The bill "has no provision for people or organisations to appeal in court warnings issued against them," campaigners said.

© 2010 AFP

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