Putin's Russia passes law introducing 15-year jail term for spreading fake news about military

Officials in Russia have made claims that their enemies in Western Europe and the US are attempting to sow discord in the country

Published Last updated

As the information war reaches dizzying heights in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Moscow has passed a new law which means people can spend up to 15 years in prison for intentionally spreading “fake news” about the military.

It is highly likely, if not almost certain, that this new law will be used to crack down on dissent.

Russian lawmakers passed amendments to the criminal code making the spread of "fake" information an offence punishable with fines or jail terms.

They also imposed fines for public calls for sanctions against Russia.

Demonstrators in London protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Demonstrators in London protest against Russia's invasion of Ukraine

"If the fakes lead to serious consequences then imprisonment of up to 15 years threatens," the lower house of parliament, known as the Duma in Russian, said in a statement.

"Literally by tomorrow, this law will force punishment - and very tough punishment - on those who lied and made statements which discredited our armed forces," Duma chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said.

Russian opposition leaders have warned that the Kremlin could crack down on dissent after Putin ordered the operation.

Moscow's communications watchdog also cut access to several foreign news organisations' websites, including the BBC and Deutsche Welle, for spreading what it alleged was false information about its war in Ukraine.

Russia has repeatedly complained that Western media organisations offer a partial - and often anti-Russian - view of the world while failing to hold their own leaders to account for foreign wars such as the Iraq conflict of 2003.