Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalkov says Kremlin should strip citizenship from those demanding sanctions against Russia

Following appeals by some opposition figures, one of Russia’s most prominent film directors has suggested that citizenship should be revoked from those that ask foreign nations to impose punitive measures against the country.

In recent weeks, a number of Western-leaning activists, such as Alexey Navalny, have openly called for the imposition of sanctions. Two of Navalny’s closest allies, Leonid Volkov and Vladimir Ashurkov, notably appeared last week at an EU forum discussing how Brussels could target Moscow.

Speaking in an interview to TV channel Russia 24, Nikita Mikhalkov revealed that he wants the government to pass a law similar to that in the Soviet Union, which stated that citizenship could be stripped “in exceptional cases” if the person had damaged the state’s prestige or security.

In modern-day Russia, this is impossible, as the constitution states that citizenship can not be deprived and renunciation must be voluntary.

“[The law is] not to beat dissent, not to punish people who go out and protest against lawlessness, bureaucracy, corruption so on,” the director said. “[Corruption] exists, and it must be fought, but not by destroying the country.”

Mikhalkov also noted that this is exacerbated when followed “by an appeal to Western countries to impose sanctions.”

However, the director stated that any such law must be “spelled out precisely” so it’s not easily abused.

Mikhalkov is one of Russia’s most decorated directors, and has been nominated three times for the Academy Awards, winning the prize for best foreign language film in 1995 for his movie ‘Burnt by the Sun’.

On January 30, the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), established by Navalny in 2011 and registered in Russia as a foreign agent, asked US President Joe Biden to sanction 35 different Russian citizens, including many government officials. Just two weeks before that, FBK boss Ashurkov published a list of eight men the group considered priorities for Western measures.

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Shortly after, in early February, Vyacheslav Volodin, the State Duma speaker, submitted a proposal to criminalize calling for sanctions against Russians. If passed, it could lead to a fine of 500,000 rubles ($6,785) or imprisonment of up to three years.

“There should be a very tough punishment for such actions,” he said. Volodin is a member of the ruling pro-Vladimir Putin United Russia party.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also took aim at the FBK request, claiming that it proves the foundation is “de jure and de facto” a foreign agent.

In response to Mikhalkov’s proposition, Peskov noted that the director is not the first to suggest such legislation, but neither supported the idea, nor ruled it out. However, he did reveal that the government would consider how to punish those that call for sanctions against Russia.“This topic is very relevant and it is clear that such proposals will certainly be discussed,” Peskov said.

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