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November 21, 2015

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Russian parliament gives nod to security overhaul after jet bomb

RUSSIA’S parliament backed a sweeping overhaul of national security, including possibly expanding the powers of the country’s intelligence services, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb downed a Russian plane over Egypt last month.

In a rare meeting of both chambers of parliament yesterday, deputies, 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.”

Putin on Tuesday vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up an Airbus A321 packed with Russian tourists over Egypt on October 31. All 224 people on board were killed.

The Kremlin also cited the Paris attacks, in which 129 people were killed, as another reason why Russia and the world need to get tougher on Islamic State.

Matviyenko said security measures at airports, on public transport and in places where large events are held, had already been beefed up, on Putin’s orders. But she and others said more needed to be done. Among the suggestions: Reinstating the death penalty for terrorists and setting up an international Nuremberg-style tribunal to try Islamic militants.

“There are proposals to widen the powers of the intelligence services and law enforcement agencies and to toughen criminal responsibility not only for terrorist activity but for anyone who supports it morally, financially or with information,” said Matviyenko.

Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the lower house of parliament, said lawmakers now needed to analyze the legal base underpinning national security to better protect people and strategic sites.

Russia has intensified its air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria in response to the Egypt plane bombing, but lawmakers say they want to ensure Putin knows he has their full support if he decides to go further.

Most Russians approve of Putin’s actions in Syria and his personal popularity is at a record high of almost 90 percent, opinion polls show.

But his handling of the Egypt plane crash appears to have drawn a more mixed reaction with one survey, conducted by the independent Levada pollster, showing that 73 percent of Russians thought he should have addressed the nation personally afterwards to offer his condolences.

Sergei Mironov, the leader of the Just Russia party, said yesterday it was “essential” in the wake of the plane bombing for Russia to bring back the death penalty, currently subject to a moratorium, for terrorists and their accomplices.



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