Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday signed into law a bill introducing jail terms of up to 15 years for publishing "fake" information about Russia's actions abroad, as Moscow pushes forward with its invasion of Ukraine.
The new laws, approved by lawmakers in the state Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, threaten those who "knowingly" spread so-called false information about all Russian state bodies operating abroad with fines of 1.5 million rubles (around €13,000) and prison sentences of up to 15 years.
The new amendments add to existing legislation that criminalizes Russians who disseminate "false information" about the Russian army, and will now head to the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, before being signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The laws will likely come into force seven days after this, according to legal rights group Net Freedoms Project.
As the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to escalate, a number of cases show how Moscow has intensified its crackdown on media and dissenters in the country.
Putin has already banned Facebook and Instagram after labelling them as "extremist" and media reports have suggested that, to silence dissent, the Russian authorities have blocked or shut down independent media in the country.
The Russian leader last week promised that he will purge Russia of the "scum and traitors" who are opposing the special "military operation" in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Telegram has overtaken WhatsApp to become Russia's most popular messaging tool, the mobile operator Megafon said on Monday (March 21).
WhatsApp owner Meta Platforms Inc is embroiled in a Russian court case, with prosecutors seeking to label it an "extremist organisation", and authorities have actively promoted Telegram as they have banned other foreign platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.