Russia’s parliament has backed a sweeping overhaul of national security, including a possible expansion of intelligence powers, after the Kremlin had concluded a bomb downed a Russian plane over Egypt last month.
In a rare meeting of both chambers of parliament on Friday, deputies and senators adopted a resolution calling for tougher penalties for “terrorists”, stricter public security measures, and new action to combat extremism.
“You can’t have too much security, and any system needs perfecting,” said Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and the head of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. “Such work is going on at full pace.”
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Russia has intensified its air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria in response to the plane attack that killed all 224 people on board on October 31.
Parliamentarians say they want to ensure that Putin knows he has their full support if he decides to go further.
Matviyenko said security measures at airports, on public transport, and in places where large events are held, have already been beefed up – on Putin’s orders – in the past week.
Sergei Mironov, the leader of the Just Russia party, said on Friday that it was “essential” in the wake of the plane crash for Russia to bring back the death penalty for terrorists and their accomplices. The penalty is currently subject to a moratorium.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Mironov’s idea was a new one, but that the issue was complex, while Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief-of-staff, said Russians would back such a proposal, but that it was “premature” to reinstate capital punishment.
In a separate development, Riad Haddad, the Syrian ambassador to Russia, told journalists in St Petersburg that Russia faced a major threat from ISIL members who come from post-Soviet countries.
The Russian Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying that about 10,000 natives of post-Soviet states were fighting for ISIL.