Russia cracks down on critics of its ‘military operation’ in Ukraine
- Russia puts investigative journalist on ‘wanted’ list and extends detention of another in latest crackdown
- People face jail terms of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading false information about Russia’s military
Russian authorities kept up their crackdown against citizens who speak out about the fighting in Ukraine, extending a critic’s detention, confirming charges against two others and prompting Moscow’s chief rabbi to flee the country.
Russia adopted a law criminalising spreading allegedly false information about its military shortly after its troops rolled into Ukraine in late February.
The offence is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Human rights advocates have counted dozens of cases. Russians must use the term “military operation” when speaking of the fighting in Ukraine.
In the latest development, a Moscow court on Wednesday extended the detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza Jnr, a journalist and former associate of assassinated Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
The court extended Kara-Murza’s detention from June 12 to August 12 on accusations that he spread “false information” about the country’s armed forces. The activist rejects the charges.
Kara-Murza in 2015 and 2017 survived poisonings that he blamed on the authorities. Russian officials have denied responsibility.
Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, who spent years exposing the activities of Russian security agencies and is now living in London, reported this week that a criminal case had been opened against him.
Soldatov is accused of spreading false information about the Russian military. Soldatov reported that his bank accounts in Russia have been frozen.
Soldatov, who founded the website Agenta.ru that monitors Russia’s security services, said in a tweet on Tuesday: “My Monday: my accounts in Russian banks are under arrest, plus I’m placed on Russia’s wanted list”.
Soldatov is among the world’s foremost authorities on Russia’s security services, and is one of few experts who has been able to penetrate the secretive agencies, detail their failings and rivalries.
He has commented on Russian security issues for prominent Western outlets including The New York Times, New Yorker and the Times of London, and is a fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
Russian authorities also confirmed they have filed similar charges against popular Russian fiction writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, who also now lives outside Russia.
Glukhovsky had posted a video showing a tank shelling a residential building in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, along with commentary criticising Russia’s military operation. He is a former journalist and author of the bestselling novel Metro-2033.
Aside from criminal prosecutions, public figures in Russia have reportedly faced pressure from the authorities to publicly announce their support of the country’s military operations in Ukraine. The latest example is Pinchas Goldschmidt, Moscow’s chief rabbi.
The Times of Israel reported that Goldschmidt refused to make such statements and has now decided to stay in Israel. The newspaper quoted his daughter-in-law Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt.
Additional reporting by Business Insider