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Russians who spread “false information” about the war in Ukraine can now face up to 15 years in prison. The Russian parliament has passed the repressive measures, and the Federation Council will approve the legislation later today.

Anyone who, according to the law’s definition, “lies and makes statements that discredit the armed forces” will be prosecuted. ‘Minor violations’, such as sharing what Russia considers to be a ‘falsified’ article, carries a hard labor of up to three years or a fine of up to 1.5 million rubles (more than 12,000 euros at the time of writing). Calling for sanctions against Russia, for example, carries higher penalties.

According to a Kremlin spokesman, Russia is currently “inundated with a flood of fake news”. It holds NATO and foreign intelligence services responsible for this.

More repressive measures have been taken. Media watchdog Roskomnadzor has “limited” access to a number of independent media, which means that the websites are hardly retrievable. These include Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Meduza (which operates out of Latvia) and the Russian-language websites of the BBC and Deutsche Welle.

Yesterday Moscow’s popular TV channel Dozhd and radio channel Echo were blocked. A slew of media companies have already been included on the list of so-called ‘foreign agents’, which means they are regularly investigated and subject to strict financial supervision.

The offices of a number of human rights organizations were also searched this morning, including the research organization Memorial .

State of siege

Many Russians fear that the government will declare martial law in the foreseeable future. That would lead to President Putin gaining more power. Also, the censorship would be further increased and all borders closed.

International media report that an estimated thousands of Russians have fled the country for fear of closing the borders. A researcher from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told The Guardian that Russia can expect an exodus of highly educated people.

In recent days, thousands of people have taken to the streets in all parts of Russia to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At least 7,000 demonstrators were arrested, human rights organization OVD-Info reports.

Reported by NOS

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