Russia’s Federation Council has approved a bill designed to ensure the sustainable, autonomous operation of Runet – the Russian segment of internet – in case of a global shutdown or a deliberate cut-off.
Voting on the legislation – quite ironically – was disrupted by an internet and electricity shutdown at the Federal Council building. Despite the troubles, the meeting started 20 minutes late and the bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of senators in the second reading.
“The electricity went out this morning. We’re now addressing the issue with the building operator company. But even a power outage led to paralysis of the work of the Federation Council for half an hour. You can imagine if the same happens to internet – and we’ve received such threats,” the Federation Council spokeswoman Valentina Matvienko has said.
To become the law, the legislation now has to be signed by President Vladimir Putin. It is expected to take effect in November, while the implementation of it and the building of necessary infrastructure has an estimated cost of some $460 million.
The legislation was introduced by a group of lawmakers in December 2018 in response to the “aggressive” US National Cyber Strategy. The document has accused Russia, as well as China, North Korea and Iran of using “cyber tools” to undermine US ‘democracy’ and the economy. It threatens dire consequences to anyone conducting malicious cyber activities against Washington.
If relations between Russia and the West deteriorate even further and the US moves to restrict access or completely cut off Russian IP addresses, the set of measures envisioned by the legislation would allow the Runet to function autonomously. The system will also be activated if the web suffers a global shutdown for any other reason. In such scenario, the web will be ‘governed’ by the Russian media watchdog – the Roskomnadzor.
The legislation prompted fears that it was designed to “isolate” and “control” the Russian segment of internet, but the country’s top officials have insisted that it was actually a defensive, emergency tool. While there has been no precedent of a whole country getting cut off from the internet, it’s certainly possible, according to experts.