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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Russia is increasing punishment for badmouthing the military amid battles on the front lines

A newly proposed Russian law could result in possible 15-year prison sentences for people who defame or defame participants in the so-called special military operation against Ukraine.

The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, on Tuesday approved an amendment making citizens “liable for disseminating knowingly false information” about volunteer soldiers.

“All those today [are] risk their lives, ensure the security of the country and citizens, be protected from provocations and lies,” Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin told Telegram.

Previous laws were limited to punishing “discrediting” or “spreading untruths” against military personnel, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported, with the new amendment increasing prison sentences from three to five years and from five to seven years , at “repeated discrediting”.

Volodin said the law, which still has to be approved by the upper house of parliament before it could be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, dates back to the 1980s and 1990s when “uniformed officers tried to stay away from public places.” , because there was a lack of protective measures.

“This was done by the authorities, who did not think that their soldiers would defend it and the country and carry out tasks and orders,” Volodin said.

It also stems from a request from the founder of the Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin. In January he called on Volodin and the Duma to tighten the laws and make the penalties even more extreme.

Prigozhin wrote in a letter to Volodin that the media and bloggers unfairly portrayed his recruited convicts as “villains and criminals.” Volodin promised Prigozhin that amendments could be voted on as early as March 14.

A caveat in Prigozhin’s letter, however, was that stricter laws “should not be extended to the highest command personnel of volunteer detachments, including the Wagner PMC [private military company],” and the Supreme Command of the Russian Defense Ministry, “as necessary to ensure transparency and accountability for the exercise of their powers.”

Prigozhin and his group of mercenaries were very active in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, especially at Bakhmut. However, they have also clashed with Russian forces on a variety of occasions, notably due to public appeals via video and social media regarding ammunition shortages.

The wealthy financier has also not been shy when it comes to denouncing the performance of some senior Russian military officials, which has reportedly caused a rift between him and his former close ally Putin.

As recently as Thursday, Prigozhin told Telegram that the Kremlin had cut him off from all Russian government communication channels.

“Today is the moment of truth,” Volodin said while passing the amendment. “You and I must think of the soldiers and officers who are in the trenches today, who will come tomorrow, of the volunteers who will go there.”

“Today every soldier and officer, regardless of whether he is in the armed forces [or] Volunteers must understand lies and slander against him, will be punished and protected by law,” he added.

news week addressed the Duma press office for comments.

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