MOSCOW — The Russian parliament has approved a bill toughening sanctions in terrorism cases ahead of the Winter Olympic Games next February, including a controversial measure that makes families of terrorists financially accountable for the damage.
The bill makes it possible for officials to investigate the property of relatives of "a person who has committed a terrorist act" and make such people financially accountable for damage done by this person, according to parliament documents.
It also makes it a criminal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison if a person has "received training with a goal of committing terrorist acts," including learning how to use explosives and other weapons.
The Russian Duma lower house on Friday approved the bill, which was proposed less than a month ago, but it has to still receive the approval of the upper house and the signature of President Vladimir Putin.
The bill also introduces punishment of up to six years in prison to people who participate in terrorist groups abroad if such activities harm Russia's interests.
Chechen fighters are currently active in some groups fighting in Syria, but foreign mercenaries "fight not for the idea, not for freedom, but for money" and must be held accountable, said one author of the bill, pro-Kremlin deputy Nikolai Kovalyov.
The bill had received its share of criticism as some observers said such legislation essentially undermined the notion of presumption of innocence for terrorists' relatives, while others compared it to the practice during Stalin purges of punishing entire families.
Russia will host the Winter Olympic Games next February in its southern resort Sochi, and security concerns have been at the top of the Kremlin's agenda.
Russia is battling a simmering Islamist insurgency in its North Caucasus region, with violence regularly spilling over into other regions.
On Monday, a female suicide bomber native to Dagestan blew herself up on a bus in the southern city of Volgograd, killing six and injuring 20 people.