June 25, 2022

Russia moves on law to criminalize foreign critics

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By Sandy Fitzgerald From Newsmax

The Kremlin (AP

The United Russia party, which controls the State Duma, plans to vote on an amendment to the Russian Federation’s law about the dissemination of news determined to be false about the government and military to punish people abroad who the government deems are also reporting “fakes” 

The amendment is to a March 4 law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, ordering strict punishments for anyone who disseminates “directly false information” about the use of the Russian Federation’s armed forces, reports the website Kasparov.ru, quoting the Russian state news agency TASS. 

According to a Telegram post by TASS, “United Russia has prepared amendments on criminal and administrative liability for fakes about the work of any state bodies of Russia abroad. This was stated by the head of the Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications Alexander Khinshtein.”

The official said that amendments about punishment “for fakes about the work of state bodies of the Russian Federation abroad can be considered by the Duma next week,” the post said. 

The amendment could mean that Russians who have left the country, including the many associates of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, can be tried in absentia and arrested if they return to Russia. 

The latest amendment is for a law passed on March 4 that imposes up to 15 years for spreading “fake” news about the Russian military. 

The law allows the Russian courts to impose fines of 700,000 to 1.5 million rubles or approximately $6,500 to $14,000 in U.S. dollars, but other sanctions under the law, depending on the circumstances behind what’s disseminated, can bring a fine of 3 to 5 million rubles, or about $28,000 to $47,000 in U.S. dollars. 

The courts can also sentence offenders corrective labor for up to a year, forced labor for three years, or prison sentences for the same period. 

The move for the amendment comes as Putin Friday signed the “fake” news bill into law to punish news outlets or websites that exhibit “blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia,” reports The Washington Post.

The law also takes an unprecedented step by allowing prosecutors to bypass the courts and direct complaints about online media to the government, which can then block access to websites.

This gives prosecutors a new, higher authority to handle such websites, while almost eliminating the power of the Russian courts from the decisions, Maria Snegovaya, an adjunct fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, wrote in an email to The Post. 

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