Putin to sign 'extremist' bill banning critics from running in looming election as he fears being 'toppled like Gaddafi'
VLADIMIR Putin is set to sign an "extremist" bill banning critics from running in elections amid fears he will be "toppled like Gaddafi".
The chilling crackdown on the opposition is expected to be used to ban allies of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from running in the country's parliamentary elections in September.
The bill, overwhelmingly backed by the Federation Council today, would make it impossible for leaders, sponsors and members of "extremist" groups to run in parliamentary elections.
A Russian court is currently deciding whether to label Navalny's political network as an "extremist organisation" and could announce a decision as early as next week.
The bill will not only affect senior members and activists of Navalny's political campaign but tens of thousands of Russians who supported its work with donations.
Leaders of such "extremist" groups will not be able to run in parliamentary elections for five years, while members and those who helped fund the work will be banned for three years.
Putin's critics said Russian authorities have unleashed a campaign against the opposition ahead of the looming parliamentary elections later this year.
The Russian leader is terrified of being killed like Libyan tyrant Gaddafi in a revolution, Putin enemy Yuri Felshtinsky previously told The Sun Online.
Furious protests over the jailing of Navalny convinced Putin that more repression and killing of opponents was needed to avoid the same grisly fate as the Libyan leader, Felshtinsky said.
"The lesson that Putin will have learnt after the recent events is that he should control more and that he should repress more. And that’s what we will see," the leading expert said.
Putin – who has maintained an iron grip on Russia for twenty years – has also signed off laws allowing him to remain in power until at least 2036.
And Russian lawmakers pushed forward a bill which will give Putin lifetime immunity from prosecution once he leaves office.
It comes as two more political activists – Dmitry Gudkov and Andrei Pivovarov – were detained in the last week.
Pivovarov, the former executive director of Open Russia, a pro-democracy group, was pulled off his Warsaw-bound flight on Monday.
The 39-year-old faces up to six years in prison for his involvement in an "undesirable" organisation.
A court was expected to decide whether to remand him later today.
The charges put forward by law enforcement have nothing to do with politics."
Pivovarov was arrested just days after Open Russia, founded by self-exiled Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formally disbanded to shield its members from possible prosecution.
The group was designated an "undesirable" organisation in Russia in 2017.
Pivovarov was yanked off the plane after authorities in Russia's ally Belarus diverted a Ryanair flight to Minsk to arrest a dissident on board, prompting international outrage.
And on Tuesday, police detained Gudkov after carrying out raids on homes of his allies and relatives.
The 41-year-old former opposition lawmaker faces up to five years in prison for allegedly failing to pay a debt under an old lease agreement.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the detentions were a purely legal matter.
"The charges put forward by law enforcement have nothing to do with politics," he told reporters.
A total of 146 senators approved the bill on Wednesday, while one voted against and one abstained.
The legislation will have to be signed by Putin to become law.
"Not a single civilised country allows extremists in its official organs," senator Andrei Klimov said ahead of the vote.
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