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Foreigners entering Russia could be forced to sign ‘loyalty pledge’

<span>Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP</span>
Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/AP

The Russian interior ministry has proposed introducing a “loyalty pledge” that foreigners would have to sign on entering the country as the government considers even more stringent controls on public dissent amid its war in Ukraine.

The new rules would include prohibitions on criticism of the Russian state and top officials including Vladimir Putin, Kremlin foreign policy including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, discussion of LGBTQ+ issues and support for same-sex marriage, and “distortion of the historical truth about the feat of the Soviet people in the defence of the Fatherland and its contribution to the victory over fascism”.

All of those issues have become cornerstones of conservative social policy under Putin, who has become a self-styled champion of “traditional values” and “historical truth” while driving Russia into international isolation through a series of conflicts with the west.

Earlier this week, Putin called on Russian families to strive to have as many as seven or eight children, saying Russia was facing a vast demographic crisis that could play to the advantage of its enemies.

It is not clear when the law, which the ministry calls a “loyalty pledge”, will be submitted to the Russian Duma. Similar laws have been considered since 2021, but this is the first time that draft legislation has been seen by Russian media.

The draft law, which was first reported by the state news agency Tass, would require foreigners arriving in Russia to sign a document forbidding “hinderance of activities of state authorities of the Russian Federation, discrediting in any form the foreign and domestic state policy of the Russian Federation, public authorities and their officials”.

Only those foreigners who signed the document would be allowed into the country, the news agency said.

Related: Moscow jails activist for 25 years for opposing Ukraine war

The requirements loosely mirror those for Russian citizens, who can be jailed for up to 15 years for intentionally spreading information that is seen as discrediting the Russian army or others involved in the fighting in Ukraine.

News of the draft legislation has come as the Russian supreme court is considering labelling the “international LGBT social movement” as an “extremist” movement. The fact that no such formal movement exists suggests that Russian law enforcement will be given carte blanche to persecute LGBTQ+ activists in the country.

According to Tass, the draft legislation would also forbid questioning “the concept of the institution of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and values associated with the family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood”.

“Upon entering Russia, foreigners would also be legally required to refrain from propagandising non-traditional sexual relations,” the draft legislation said.