President Vladimir Putin Monday signed into law an anti-terrorism bill giving Russian secret services sweeping new powers including downing of civilian passenger planes and attacking ships to prevent terrorists from using them for strikes in strategic facilities.
The bill, which had been cleared by both houses of Parliament, empowers the FSB secret service to call in army units and order air defence forces to shoot down hijacked planes in order to prevent attacks on strategic facilities or public places, including nuclear power stations.
This measure was taken to prevent an attack like the one in US on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked passenger planes and crashed them on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon headquarters in Washington.
Providing a regulatory framework for dealing with terrorist attacks and their aftermath, the bill empowers secret services to tap telephone conversations and control electronic communications in areas where counter-terrorism operations are being run.
The military can also attack ships being used in a terrorist act. The forces can fire at the planes or ships even if terrorists have taken hostages.
Though the bill permits negotiations with terrorists who have taken hostages, it prevents considering any political demands and calls for armed forces to use Russia-based weaponry against terrorists operaing outside its borders.
The new measures were approved by the State Duma and Federation Council on February 26 and March 1 respectively, the Kremlin press office said.