The Moscow City Duma will work with a foreign agent - Newspaper Kommersant No. 13 (7458) dated 01/25/2023

The Moscow City Duma will gather on Wednesday for the first plenary meeting after the winter holidays, in which for the first time in the status of a foreign agent, a member of the Yabloko faction, Daria Besedina, will take part. She became the second regional deputy-foreign agent: communist Viktor Vorobyov from the Komi State Council received this status last April, but, according to him, this does not particularly interfere with deputy work. Ms. Besedina herself is now discussing legal nuances with lawyers, and the Moscow City Duma has not yet commented on the legal side of the issue. The expert believes that the reputation of the capital's parliament only benefited from this situation, because Muscovites who disagreed with the special operation received their political representation.

The first plenary meeting of the spring session of the Moscow City Duma on January 25 will be held for the first time with the participation of a deputy who is a foreign agent. During the winter holidays, this status was given to the Moscow City Duma deputy from the Yabloko faction Daria Besedina. As the Ministry of Justice explained, the reason for including her in the register of foreign agents was the fact that the deputy took part in the creation and dissemination of messages and materials of foreign agents, and also "spoke out against the special military operation in Ukraine and carried out propaganda of LGBT relations."

Daria Besedina told Kommersant that she is currently studying with lawyers the question of how the new status will affect her work in the Moscow City Duma, but she will come to the first meeting “as usual”. “So far, I can’t say anything concrete, I haven’t fully figured it out,” the deputy admitted. She has already begun to mark, as required by law, her publications on social networks. As for marking on information plates in the Moscow City Duma, this issue, according to Ms. Besedina, will be worked out by the press service of the capital's parliament.

Daria Besedina was elected to the Moscow City Duma in 2019 in single-mandate constituency No. 8, defeating communist Vadim Kumin. She became a member of the Yabloko party in 2017, and at the end of 2021 she was expelled from the party along with 97 other members. The reasons for this decision in the leadership of Yabloko were the signing of collective letters with “false information” about the party, the nomination of their candidacies in the elections against the “apple” candidates and the support of other opponents of the party in the elections (we are talking, in particular, about the nominees of the City Projects fund and candidates supported by the Smart Voting project). Nevertheless, Mrs. Besedina remained a member of the Yabloko faction.

According to the new law “On Control over the Activities of Persons Under Foreign Influence”, which entered into force on December 1, 2022, a natural or legal person can be recognized as a foreign agent if he was engaged in “political activity” or dissemination of information “for an unlimited circle of persons”. Foreign agents are required to label all materials published or distributed by them, they cannot receive state support (for example, grants), organize public events (not only rallies, but also any public actions), carry out educational activities (including lectures and seminars), invest money participate in election campaigns and be members of election commissions, conduct environmental or anti-corruption expertise, and legal entities-foreign agents also cannot use the simplified taxation system. In addition, citizens and organizations with the status of "foreign agent" cannot be members of advisory and advisory bodies (for example, public councils) under state structures and have access to state secrets. At the same time, the law does not restrict the right of such citizens to be elected to government bodies: specifically for them, the concept of “candidate-foreign agent” was introduced into the electoral legislation, which implies only additional informing voters about the special status of the candidate. There is no legislation on foreign agents and no restrictions on deputy activity.

Kommersant sent a request to the Chairman of the Moscow City Duma, Alexei Shaposhnikov, about how, from a legal point of view, the new status of Besedina’s deputy would affect the work of parliament, but did not receive a response at the time of publication of the material.

The leader of the Yabloko faction in the Moscow City Duma, Maxim Kruglov, assured Kommersant that the status of Daria Besedina would not affect interaction with the faction. “The Yabloko party does not recognize the law on foreign agents, considers it repressive and harmful to the country. The appointment of people as foreign agents is based on administrative arbitrariness and the fight against dissent,” explained Mr. Kruglov. He stressed that Mrs. Besedina remains a member of the faction and the faction supports her in every possible way.

Daria Besedina became the second regional deputy in Russia to receive the status of a foreign agent. The leader of the Communist Party faction in the State Council of Komi, Viktor Vorobyov, became the first foreign agent-parliamentarian - the Ministry of Justice entered him into the register of media-foreign agents on April 1, 2022. The reason for inclusion in this list was the money he received as a refund for a returned ticket from the UK railway company, and payments from two NCO-foreign agents. The communist tried to challenge the decision of the Ministry of Justice in court, but to no avail. In April 2022, Mr. Vorobyov, as a foreign agent, was expelled from the Presidium of the State Council, and in July 2022 he lost his paid position in parliament, but formally not because of his new status, but because of inaccurate information in the income statement for 2021 (The deputy himself called these claims unfounded).

Viktor Vorobyov himself does not believe that the status of a foreign agent greatly affects his work in the regional parliament. “I never put a label, realizing the possibility of holding me accountable. They tried to fine me twice for her absence: the first time I won the court, the second time - Roskomnadzor, ”the communist told Kommersant. While the previous law on foreign agents was in force, Mr. Vorobyov did not submit “humiliating” financial reports, but from December 1, the reporting system became simpler, so the deputy nevertheless sent his first “foreign agent” report. As for marking, Viktor Vorobyov admits that he began to make fewer publications in his social networks. During the broadcast of the meetings of the State Council, they “do not hang markings” on him, because, according to him, there are simply no titles. “But at my performances, the broadcast simply began to cut off often,” the communist noted. Mr. Vorobyov also does not mark his deputy requests, because he is guided by the fact that, first of all, he fulfills his deputy duties. Nevertheless, he is still working with lawyers on the issue of what materials in the work of a deputy should be marked.

According to political scientist Konstantin Kalachev, the recognition of a deputy elected by the people as a foreign agent is absurd. In the case of Daria Besedina, the expert also does not expect “reputational damage to the Moscow City Duma”: “I only see reputational gains, especially if the Moscow City Duma behaves with restraint.” Now those residents of Moscow who do not approve of the special operation in Ukraine have actually received political representation in the Moscow City Duma, sums up Mr. Kalachev.

Elena Rozhkova

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