Russia brought new law amendments to parliament on Wednesday that further strengthen the country's censorship laws, envisaging up to 15 years in jail for discrediting the armed forces and voluntary military organizations such as the Wagner Group.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group that is trying to storm Ukraine's Bakhmut, complained in January that there are bloggers and social media channels that discredit his fighters who can't be punished under existing laws.
Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, said that "any public dissemination of knowingly false information about the forces" will be punishable, according to the amendments to the criminal code.
"As well as public actions aimed at discrediting the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, volunteer formations, organizations and persons who are facilitated in the implementation of tasks assigned to the ... Armed Forces," would be punishable, Volodin wrote on the Telegram messaging platform.
"This initiative will protect everyone who today is risking their lives to ensure the security of the country and our citizens ... The punishment for violators will be severe."
The punishment envisages fines of up to five million roubles (about $66,580), correctional or forced labor of up to five years, as well as imprisonment of up to 15 years.
"This initiative will protect everyone who today is risking their lives to ensure the security of the country and our citizens ... The punishment for violators will be severe."Vyacheslav Volodin
Outlining hefty jail terms
Shortly after sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, Russia's parliament passed laws outlining hefty jail 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 discrediting the armed forces, the OVD-Info rights group says, while authorities have also used the laws against spreading false information to hand down lengthy jail sentences to long-time critics of the Kremlin.