As I was reading a new report by Alexei Arbatov and Vladimir Dvorkin, The Great Strategic Triangle, published by the Carnegie Moscow Center in April 2013, I noticed a small footnote that tells something about how things have changed in Russia in the past year. Here is the footnote in full (it's footnote 6 in the report):
In consideration of the new amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation adopted on November 14, 2012, that extended the definition of "high treason" to "the provision of financial, material, technical, consulting or other assistance to a foreign state ... in activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation...." all the factual information presented in this work is derived from Russia's official sources, or from foreign official or unofficial sources that by definition cannot be classified as state secrets of Russia. Data from numerous Russian expert materials are not used in order to avoid accidental disclosure of classified information (authors' note).
All the numbers in the reports have indeed been taken from official or foreign sources. This didn't really affect the quality of the report, but it is still something that a careful reader would notice. I'm sure it was done out of an overabundance of caution, but the problem is that the change in the criminal code is quite real. The definition, in fact, is a bit broader than the quote in the footnote suggests. The new criminal code defines high treason as:
"the provision of financial, material, technical, consulting or other assistance to a foreign state, international or foreign organization or their representatives in their activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation."
In the past, to be accused of treason one would have to be either passing classified information to states or foreign organizations in their activities that are "hostile" (враждебная) to Russia or collecting information under a direct assignment from a foreign intelligence. Not that the Russian security services ever had any problems extending that definition to any activity they didn't like. But the new law makes this task much easier. As the things stand today, the FSB would have no problem stating in the Russian court ("Russian" is an operative word here) that, say, Carnegie Endowment is a foreign organization involved in "activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation." After all, it would be the FSB that would define what security is.
I don't think this law will be applied in practice - it would be a scandal if Russia indeed accused a respected international organization of fostering treason in court, even if it's a Russian court. But that's not how the law is supposed to operate - the idea is to create the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty in the society that makes it easier for the FSB types to control people and institutions. At the moment, it seems that they are succeeding.