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Putin Signs Sweeping Anti-terrorism Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, March 6, signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that, inter alia, allows shooting down hijacked passenger planes and hitting alleged terrorist targets abroad.

Putin Signs Sweeping Anti-terrorism Law

"Putin has signed the federal law on countering terrorism," the Kremlin press service said in a written statement cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The 24-page bill will replace the federal law on fighting terrorism which has been in effect since 1998. The document was passed by the State Duma on February 26 and approved by the Federation Council on March 1.

Last month, Putin ordered the creation of a new counter-terrorism committee to coordinate all security efforts under Russia's FSB security service, the Soviet-era KGB.

Prevention

Unlike the present legislation, which is mostly aimed at stopping acts of terror, the new bill is oriented, to a considerable extent, toward the prevention of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, according to Itar-Tass news agency.

It spells out the principles, notions and organizational mechanisms of counteracting the terrorist threat. The document keeps the provision under which secret services may tap telephone conversations and control electronic communications in the zone of the anti-terrorist operation.

Under the bill, Russia's air-defense forces are empowered to shoot down hijacked passenger planes in order to prevent attacks on strategic facilities or heavily-populated area.

It also spells out the legal mechanism for enlisting the armed forces to take part in anti-terrorist operations outside Russian territory.

Washington has carried out what it claims to be preventive anti-terror military strikes in both Afghanistan and Iraq on claims of cracking down on terrorists or searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Though a force of some 50,000 troops and police still deployed, Putin announced on January 30, 2006, end of his "anti-terror operation" in the small mountainous Caucasus republic Chechnya. Moscow has been tireless trying to project its war in Chechnya was part of the so-called global war on terror.

Since 1994, Chechnya has been ravaged, with just three years of relative peace after the first Russian invasion of the region ended in August 1996 and the second began in October 1999.

At least 100,000 Chechen civilians and 10,000 Russian troops are estimated to have been killed in both invasions, but human rights groups have said the real numbers could be much higher.

Thousands of refugees from war-torn Chechnya live in battered tent camps in neighboring Ingushetia and refuse to return home because of continuing insecurity.

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