MOSCOW—Critics say a new law designed to quell the insurgency in Russia's restive North Caucasus region revives the Stalin-era principles of collective guilt and collective justice.
President Vladimir Putin signed the legislation on November 3, requiring "close relatives and acquaintances" of those who commit acts of "terrorism" to pay damages—both material and moral—resulting from those acts. It also empowers authorities to seize property from friends and relatives of suspected militants and provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years for those convicted of receiving training "aimed at carrying out terrorist activity."
"This is absolutely not normal. It's a return to the 1930s, when Stalin advocated collective responsibility for crimes which were carried out," Mairbek Vatchagayev, a North Caucasus analyst for the Jamestown Foundation and head of the Paris-based Center for Caucasus Research, says. "Once again, we've ended up there when Putin regards himself a supporter of Stalin and the Stalin period."
The legislation comes just four months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, just a few hundred kilometers from the restive North Caucasus. Fears that terrorism could mar the Sochi Olympics heightened last month after a female suicide bomber from Daghestan detonated explosives on a bus in Volgograd, killing six people and injuring 30 others.