Putin bans officials from owning foreign accounts

AP News
Posted: Feb 12, 2013 9:06 AM
Putin bans officials from owning foreign accounts

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill that would ban Russian Cabinet members and other senior officials from having foreign bank accounts and owning foreign stock, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

The proposal also applies to the officials' wives and underage children.

The Kremlin said that the measure is aimed at "ensuring national security, establishing order in lobbyist activities, increasing investment in the national economy and raising efficiency of anti-corruption efforts."

Putin first mentioned the move in his state-of-the nation address in December, casting it as part of efforts to make officials accountable to the public. "How can you trust an official or a politician who rants about Russia's benefit but tries to keep his money abroad?" he said in the speech.

Some observers, however, saw it as part as an increasingly isolationist course Putin has taken since his election to a third presidential term and warned it could lead to a split in Russia's ruling elite.

Putin accused the U.S. of staging massive protests against his rule, and he initiated the passage of a series of repressive bills after his inauguration in May. Russia also expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development and scrapped several bilateral cooperation agreements with the U.S.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington reached a new high in December after the approval of a U.S. law targeting Russian human rights violators. The Kremlin retaliated by banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

Putin's bill doesn't ban officials from owning real estate abroad, but obliges them to include it in their income declarations, which are made public.

Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of the main Kremlin party, the United Russia, told reporters Tuesday that the new bill "answers the public demands."

Last fall, lawmakers in the State Duma gave a tentative approval to a similar bill, which will now be merged with Putin's initiative. The Duma hasn't yet set a date for considering the new bill, but it's expected to be approved quickly.

Once it becomes law, Russia's top officials will have three months to close their foreign bank accounts and sell their foreign stock.