The speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament on Friday proposed confiscating the property of critics who move abroad and speak out against Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.

After President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, Russian authorities introduced long prison terms for people criticising the Kremlin’s offensive in the pro-Western country.

On Friday, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said existing laws were not enough to crack down on critics.

“Some of our fellow citizens consider it possible to insult Russia, its residents, soldiers and officers, and openly support villains, Nazis and murderers,” he said on the messaging app Telegram, using Kremlin terms for Ukrainian authorities.

Volodin pointed out that according to Russian legislation, such comments can be considered “rehabilitation of Nazism” and discrediting the armed forces.

He called critics “miscreants” who enjoy life abroad and rent out their Russia-based property.

“They feel like they have impunity, believing that justice cannot reach them,” said Volodin, who is a close ally of Putin’s and toes the Kremlin line.

He said that in current circumstances, it would be “right” to introduce a criminal law that would allow authorities to seize the property of such people.

He did not provide further details.

If implemented, the new legislation would be a throwback to the darkest days of the Soviet Union.

Separately, a member of the Kremlin’s rights council, Kirill Kabanov, pointed to multiple calls from Russian politicians to punish Kremlin critics who have fled.

But he stressed it was important to legally define the term “traitor” first.

“Any form of betrayal must be punished,” Kabanov wrote.

“It is necessary to start by defining the very legal concept of ‘traitor’,” he said, adding that a law on state treason might need to be amended.

He said that members of the Kremlin’s rights council planned to discuss the issue with legislators “in the near future”.

Asked to comment on Volodin’s initiative, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russians who had left the country should not be punished summarily.

“Enemies are enemies, one has to fight them, but the rest are our citizens and they should remain our citizens,” he told Life, a pro-Kremlin media outlet.

Peskov said the subject was complex but did not rule out further reprisals against Putin critics.

“First we need to develop a definition of what is considered a crime,” he added.

The start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine and the subsequent military mobilisation have prompted tens of thousands of Russians to flee abroad.