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Russia delays bill criminalizing compliance with Western sanctions

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows a session of Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in Moscow on May 8, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has delayed further debates on a bill that would criminalize compliance with Western sanctions.

The Duma said Thursday that a second reading of the bill that would make it a crime to comply with sanctions on Russia was postponed until the lower house held talks with businesses.

In a first reading on Tuesday, Russian lawmakers approved jail terms up to four years for those who refuse to supply services or do business with a Russian citizen over US and European sanctions.

Nikolai Kolomeytsev, a lawmaker for the Communist party, said debates were postponed to prepare the needed legal grounds for the prosecution.

“We support postponing (discussion) for further consultations because of numerous appeals and insufficient legal preparation,” said Kolomeytsev, whose party often backs the government of President Vladimir Putin on important issues.

Lawmaker Valery Gartung also said on Thursday that the bill was needed to counter Western sanctions that have been imposed on Russia mainly over its alleged involvement in Ukraine and an array of other issues. However, the lawmaker said, parliament had to allay fears among entrepreneurs and people active in business.

“I think we can find a construction under which these fears can be removed. And then the law will pass without any fears and, generally speaking, we need it,” said Gartung, a member of the Just Russia party, also an ally of the Kremlin.

Duma’s decision to postpone the second reading on the bill came after the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs said that it could harm the investment climate. The union said in a Wednesday statement that the bill could also lead to unreasonable criminal prosecution of Russian and foreign citizens.

The bill requires three readings in the Duma before being approved by the upper house of parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

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