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I read that the Duma in Russia has passed a law that provides for penalties of up to 15 years in prison for making certain statements about the war, for example using terms such as “attack,” “invasion,” and “declaration of war” in reporting on the war.

I haven't found the exact wording of the passed law and do not know if it specifically forbids certain phrases or how actually it is determined if a statement is criminal under this law. I found a news article about the law on the Duma website, but only available in Russian. On this page there is are some links that are supposed to be the law texts but I cannot load them (timing out). A screenshot of the texts is available.

My guess is that speaking more or less faithfully about the war in Ukraine, the full-scale invasion initiated by an unprovoked attack last week is illegal now in Russia while what is allowed legally might not much have resemblance with what really happens.

What exactly does this new law forbid? How is it determined if a statement is illegal?

Which popular statements about the war that have for example been made on this site or elsewhere should one better not say aloud in Russia or else face a conviction under this law?

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    This question should definitely have the [censorship] tag, and I removed the [fake-news] tag since I think it's more for questions about actual fake-news and deliberate misinformation, rather than claiming accurate information is fake-news in order to censor it, but if you disagree, feel free to add that tag back
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 16:45
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    Here is a correct link: sozd.duma.gov.ru/bill/464757-7 (and here is a link to a final law project wording: sozd.duma.gov.ru/download/FDAA0D7C-679A-41DF-89A5-C29DD060FD82) Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 17:23
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    It has several parts, first about "distribution of certainly false claims", second about "public defamation of Russian military actions" and the third about "public calls for new sanctions". All of it is deliberately vague and ruling is left up to a particular judge (or prosecutor's office). Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 17:29
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    Here is a screenshot: imgur.com/a/lhYZfIT I'm not trusting myself at a correct translation as my English skills are far from perfect Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 17:41
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    If you're just asking about what the law itself says then the Law SE site might be a better place to ask, they are more likely to have people who know Russian law and where to find the actual legal documents.
    – Giter
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 18:45

3 Answers 3

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Most important points (I knew Russian language):

  • you can't distribute fake information about usage Russian Armed Forces to protect interests of Russian Federation, protect international peace. This only applies if you say it's true information.
  • you can't ask to prevent use Russian Armed Forces for issues above. You also can't discredit usage of Russian Armed Forces for issues above.
  • you can't suggest to sanction Russia.

It is not said directly you can't call special military operation by any other name. It's assumed (this is in many russian non-state news, just one example:https://journal.tinkoff.ru/news/feik-ob-armii/ - this is from Tinkoff Journal, they mostly publish financial news because they run by large independent bank so you can consider that they have no direct interested in all of this and are as neutral as possible for Russian company) that any publication(including comments on web) about usage Russian Armed Forces without confirmation from Ministry of Defence or Russian state news sources could be considered sources if they are told as truth and not with doubt/as personal judgement.

How it really works? This law doesn't gets used yet as far as I'm aware. Some previous ones are just used for block news sources for violations of law. I suggest you look at human right activists article on this https://reports.ovdinfo.org/no-to-war#1 (there's English version - link at the top of page).

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    I also suspect it is somewhat vague on purpose as to scare as many people as possible
    – rvs
    Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 11:46
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    Yeah, basically everything except for the official version (and please with wholehearted enthusiasm) which overlaps with reality only partly if at all. I thought the law might be more specific but it's just a general purpose thought police. Even holding up a blank sheet of paper is too much according to the ovdinfo report you link. Commented Mar 15, 2022 at 12:00
  • Does it says that you can't call it a war in Russian (if you are in Russia)? Or in any language? I've heard commentators (living in Russia) say the Latin "ante bellum," which literally translates as "before the war," in the course of their commentary.
    – wrod
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 1:43
  • @wrod, in any language (language is not specified). As for people in Russia call it "war" - right now this applies mostly to news sources (for some definition of such). Prosecution is at will. If it's news site which doesn't hosted in Russia, not officially registered as such and it's staff are either not in Russia or hide - it could be blocked if they want to use 'war'(example - meduza.io, ex-lenta.ru team, english/russian, they are latvian(AFAIR) registered news site on paper, they do call it war). As for regular persons - they will be prosecuted if goverment wants this.
    – Tauri
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 10:45
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Any (mostly based on the chapter 280). I am not Russian of any kind but I am fluent in this language.

The chapter 280 in your linked text offers the punishment for the public discreditation of the usage of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation for the goal of defending the interests of Russian Federation and its citizens. It does not include the requirement that the "discreditation" should be based on knowingly or unknowingly the wrong information. The person would be guilty also for telling the known and verified truth, if this truth may cause people to stop respecting someone or believing in an idea or person. Nothing else is as discrediting as the truth may be.

The existence of this chapter probably explains why in some cases even displaying a blank poster with no text can be punishable (source) so really remains a question if anything can be legally said apart copy-pasted official new releases. Attorneys cannot speak for they defendant if this defendant is an anti-war protester. Deputies cannot do they job by raising doubts if the Ukraine campaign is managed well.

Using the word "war" is seen as discreditation so falls under this chapter as well. This is the "special operation". Russian opposition politician Yevgeny Roizman, has been arrested for the single phrase, 'the invasion of Ukraine'. Due that I write "any", as once you use the word "war" that is in the title of the question the deal is done.

The chapter 207 in the linked text talks about the public distribution of the knowingly wrong information, related to the usage of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation for the goal of defending the interests of Russian Federation and its citizens. The honesty of this chapter depends on how much is required to prove that the information is not just wrong but knowingly wrong. I am under impression that everything not in official news is automatically seen as "knowingly wrong". Statements like "Ukraine and its allies, including London, are threatening Russia for the last 1,000 years, to move NATO to our borders" (source) may theoretically also qualify. But likely would be assumed that the Russian propagandist sincerely believed NATO is the whole millennium old (only founded in 1949).

The chapter 284 talks about the suggestions for sanctions and other restrictions for Russian Federation and its citizens. While Russian Federation itself is kind of strange place to call for sanctions on it, the most extreme opponents of war may possibly go that far.

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    You link points to a statement by the Russian representative to the UN - this is the position of the Russian government, but not the law, which is what the question asks.
    – Morisco
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 8:19
  • I linked the better source. The answer itself remains correct.
    – Stančikas
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 8:27
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    I think what was needed here is the translation of the law (linked in the OP) and possibly a legal commentary on what it means and how it is actually applied. Your link does not contain this information.
    – Morisco
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 8:32
  • I now provide I think enough samples on how this law is actually applied.
    – Stančikas
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 9:47
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    I changed my downvote to +1.
    – Morisco
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 9:56
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You've got to take into account that in Russia the letter of the law diverges from the practice of the law very badly. It always did. Basically any statement against the war with Ukraine, no matter true or false, can land you in prison for years. Because, according to Kremlin, there is no war in Ukraine: it's a "special operation", and mere mentioning of the war, even simply saying "No to war!" will be judged as spreading false derogatory information about Russian forces, an imprisonable offense.

This "shut up or get imprisoned" is not an idle threat: people have been sentenced for objecting to the war.

In Russia, it doesn't mean much what the law says: it's all about who is going to interpret it, and all the judges are Putin's appointees. You wouldn't believe the width of interpretation they are capable of.

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    Yes, I know that Russia doesn't have an independent justice system that honors the law, so in principle the answer to any question about laws in Russia is always the same. I initially asked this question because I thought Russian lawmakers have actually spelt out what is the "official truth" and what is not and I was curious about it, but that was a bit naive. They simply created a law to shut up any criticism in the population. In that regard there isn't even much difference to before. Russia became an authoritarian country already in the past. Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 17:47

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