Russia bans ‘discrediting’ military, voluntary formations amid Ukraine war

Russia on Wednesday introduced new law amendments in parliament that further strengthen the country’s censorship laws, envisaging up to 15 years in prison for defaming the armed forces and voluntary military organizations such as the Wagner Group.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group trying to storm Ukraine’s Bakhmut, complained in January that there are bloggers and social media channels who discredit his fighters who cannot be punished under existing laws.

Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, said that according to amendments to the criminal code, “any public dissemination of knowingly false information about the forces” would be punishable.

“As well as public actions aimed at discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, volunteer structures, organizations and individuals who … facilitate the implementation of the tasks assigned to the Armed Forces,” shall be punishable, Volodin said. messaging platform written on Telegram.

Read more: Now, Russian officials can’t use most foreign words: Vladimir Putin’s new law

“This initiative will protect all those who are today putting their lives at risk to ensure the safety of the country and our citizens… Violators will be severely punished.”

The punishment envisages a fine of up to five million rubles (about $66,580), correctional or forced labor for up to five years, as well as imprisonment of up to 15 years.

Soon after sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, Russia’s parliament passed legislation outlining heavy prison terms and fines for those who knowingly distribute “false information” or discredit its armed forces.

Russian prosecutors have opened more than 5,800 cases against people for defaming the armed forces, the OVD-info rights group says, while authorities have fined longtime critics of the Kremlin for spreading false information to serve long prison terms. Against laws have also been used.

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